A teenager trying to recover deleted data from his portable music player before fatally stabbing a man at the Australasian Scientology headquarters in Sydney’s north has been found to be mentally ill at the time.
In the NSW Supreme Court on Tuesday, the Taiwanese national was not held criminally responsible for the stabbing death of Chih-Jen (Aaron) Yeh, on January 3, 2019, in Chatswood.
Justice Hament Dhanji conducted a judge-alone hearing after the teenager was deemed unfit for trial, and delivered the same special verdict for the charge of wounding Shannon Vaughan with intention to cause him grievous bodily harm.
The accused lived in Chatswood from December 2018 with his mother who had thought it good for her son – who as a child was diagnosed with an emotional disorder and autism – to leave Taiwan and continue their Scientology education elsewhere.
After three days of classes the boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, “disagreed with what he was being taught” and was given odd jobs on the grounds, according to the facts of the case.
On January 1, 2019, his mother was told by a church worker that her son’s MP3 player contained a pornographic and violent novel and was advised to delete the content.
The following morning she erased the novel while he slept and that evening he approached her in class and said: “It was you who deleted my data, I’ll give you ten seconds to recover it”.
He then struck his mother over the head and grabbed her by the throat before pursuing her across the room where she cowered.
Two church supervisors restrained and walked the teenager back to his accommodation where he was told to stay.
A man later identified as “Steve” said he would return and help recover the missing files the following day.
CCTV footage captured the accused on January 3 walking across the grounds at midday carrying a knife about 4.5cm wide, and 14.6cm long in his shorts pocket, hidden under his shirt at times.
Security manager Shannon Vaughan approached him with a Mandarin translator, and Chih-Jen (Aaron) Yeh joined soon after.
The accused explained a person had failed to meet an appointment to retrieve his data but he was told to return home and wait for Steve, who was in another meeting.
At about 12.30pm, he first slashed at Mr Vaughan who blocked what he thought was a punch, sustaining a gash on his hand.
He then stabbed Mr Yeh who was heard making a “gurgling sound,” while clutching his neck, before another woman ran to reception for help.
He continued to swing at Mr Vaughan, who evaded the knife before a nearby gardener intervened and attempted to block his movements with a leaf-blower.
Emergency services were called and more people approached, one witness hearing words to the effect: “I need to find a man named Steve. I’ll give you two minutes to find him otherwise I’ll kill everyone here,” in Mandarin.
The teenager kept swinging his knife at Mr Vaughan until police arrived and arrested him about 12.36pm.
Mr Yeh was pronounced dead in hospital.
Two experts later assessed the accused and found he had been suffering from schizophrenia at the time, and lacked the capacity to understand his actions were wrong.
He will remain in a mental health ward under observation until deemed fit for release with the prospect of repatriation back to his native Taiwan.
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