A mentally ill Perth mother who killed her two young daughters before trying to take her own life has been found not guilty of their murder due to unsoundness of mind.
Milka Djurasovic, 40, faced a judge-alone trial in the Supreme Court of Western Australia.
She admitted killing her daughters Mia, 10, and six-year-old Tiana, whose bodies were found by their father Nenad at their Madeley home in October 2019, but argued she should not be found criminally responsible for her actions.
Justice Stephen Hall on Wednesday found Djurasovic had been suffering from major depression with psychotic features which had deprived her of the capacity to know she ought not to commit the crimes.
He ordered that she remain detained until released by order of the state governor.
Justice Hall said the case was profoundly sad, describing Mia and Tiana as bright and vibrant girls who were very much loved by their family.
“There is no rational reason why anyone would want to hurt them, least of all their mother, who, by all accounts, cared for them deeply,” he said.
“In her delusional state she thought that the only way to end her own suffering, and to save her children from it, was to kill them and commit suicide.
“In this distorted and irrational mindset, killing her children was, for the accused, an act of love.”
The trial was told that on the day of the killings Djurasovic woke around 7am and thought to herself “today’s the day”, placing knives, machetes and rope in the pantry.
Tiana cried when she saw the items, asking her mother “are you going to do something to me?” and saying she wanted to go to school.
Djurasovic “snapped out of it” and got the girls ready, sounding upbeat over the phone when her husband called.
At the school gates, she parked for several minutes before returning home.
Later that morning she decided to proceed, plugging a vacuum cleaner into the wall and leaving it running to drown out any sound.
After killing her daughters, Djurasovic kissed and hugged the girls and placed toys next to their bodies.
She then made several attempts to take her own life and recorded a video in which she repeatedly apologised and urged her husband to let her die.
The girls’ father arrived home that afternoon to discover Mia’s body, with Tiana’s body later discovered by paramedics.
Police found Djurasovic a short time later covered in a blanket in sand dunes at a nearby beach, having again attempted to end her life.
Evidence was heard during the trial from three forensic psychiatrists who had separately interviewed Djurasovic after the killings.
All agreed she had lacked the capacity to know what she was doing was wrong.
In the months prior to the killings, Djurasovic had been preoccupied by concern about Tiana’s health. She struggled with eating and sleeping, suffered panic attacks and a low mood and began speaking about her own death.
She feared her children would be placed into care if she was hospitalised.
Her doctor prescribed her antidepressants and referred her to a psychiatrist and psychologist but Djurasovic kept her delusions and suicidal thoughts closely guarded.
“There is a natural tendency in a case like this for family members to wonder if things could have been different,” Justice Hall said.
“The evidence here is that … it is very unlikely that anyone could have prevented what happened.”
Several notes which Djurasovic had typed or handwritten were found in the home.
“I love my girls more than anyone and anything and I am so sorry for not looking after them better,” she wrote.
Djurasovic also wrote a letter to her husband, saying she didn’t want her daughters to end up on medication and that she “did nothing bad on purpose but that is how it ended up”.
Her lawyer Mark Trowell QC said she would be held in custody indefinitely until the Mental Health Review Board recommended her release to the governor.
He described her as being very emotional about the judgement, adding that she would continue to receive treatment while in Bandyup women’s prison.
“It’s a terrible tragedy for everyone,” he said.
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