24 August 2007

Canberra centre death – man to be charged

| Jazz
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A man was taken in to custody and will be charged today after knocking two elderly people to the ground about lunch time in the Canberra Centre yesterday. One of those people, a 71 year old woman, died shortly after of a heart attack.

The initial ABC report is here with updated info in this ninemsm news article indicating that a review of closed circuit TV footage shows that both the elderly woman and an earlier attack on a 60 year old man were shoulder-charges not head butts as originally believed. No indication as yet if these attacks where as part of bag snatch attempts, if the offender was drug effected or if he suffers a mental condition.
UPDATE c/- asp

The man accused with shoulder charging a 71 year old woman and another older man in the Canberra Centre yesterday, Matthew Raymond Nicholls, 31, from Ainslie – has bee charged with assault occasioning actual bodily harm. (Full story at SMH)

Nicholls refused legal aid, and Magistrate Beth Campbell ordered him to undergo evaluation from a health officer before continuing.

Mental evaluation, I hope that is just to follow guidelines because if the judge can’t see that this is one twisted mental case, we need some new judges. Conversly, if it’s found he’s “too” mental and has an actual condition, then he may not have to face trial and meaning he won’t be punished for his actions.

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Thoroughly Smashed12:46 pm 06 Apr 10

Thoroughly Smashed said :

This and the car being driven into Parliament House… The end of daylight savings is sending everyone stark raving bonkers.

Ugh. That’ll teach me to check the date first.

Thoroughly Smashed12:37 pm 06 Apr 10

This and the car being driven into Parliament House… The end of daylight savings is sending everyone stark raving bonkers.

Ralph said :

We are entitled express fair comment.

Expressing the opinion that a schizophrenic should get a “life sentence” for knocking over 2 people is “fair comment”?

It’s a pity that you have to live in the 21st Century, Ralph. You really would have been much happier in the Middle Ages.

The judgment has now been released in this matter.


My mother was the most beautiful, caring, loving & unselfish person Ive ever known. She was always proud of me and loved me unconditionally. She always taught me to forgive. Her life was tragically taken by this creaton yet she would have forgiven him. I will not forgive and I will not forget until justice is served. If only the law would allow for me her son, to choose his punishment by being left alone in the room with him just with my bare hands to decide his fate, surely that would be justice. He is supposed to be mentally insane yet is sane enough to manipulate the system and LEGALLY escaping lawful custody to get away with taking the innocent life of my mother. Does that make sense whatsoever to anyone What does anyone else think of that for punishment??

dont remember

DJ McLaughlin was dead so no ability to in be contempt of court by acknoweledging what a nice guy he was.

Re: Clea Rose, I remember anybody menitioning young BPs crim history or name.

4. Don’t discuss previous criminal history of the defendant or personal knowledge of the defendant. (This one would also be easy to avoid and so far hasn’t been seen on this site by me). Anything of this nature would need to be moderated if it happens. – you mean of course all those cranks that showed up after Clea Rose, the nutter who topped himself in his car, etc etc, who have all cited ‘personal knowledge’ are to be discouraged/moderated ?

Man oh man that’s a can o worms. Plus those nutters make this place that much more interesting as we go through the cycle of teaching them to use the spacebar, paragraphs, sentence structure, CAPS LOCK, and then Txt L33t sp33k, until we can finally understand them.

My basic understanding is that any discussion is fine as long as it isn’t going to derail the judicial process.

1. Don’t name the defendant unless it is already on the public record. (This one is easy because once charged in an open court the name is on the public record, if suppressed by the court then comply with that.)
2. Don’t show a photograph (easy to avoid on this forum – If interstate media show an unpixelated image then obviously don’t link to it. Showing a photo would damage identification of the defendant by witnesses)
3. Use the word allegedly when discussing guilt or innocence. (If a person has been charged then the allegation has been read to them by a magistrate in court in the indictment). Just speaking with an apparent assumption about guilt or innocence is not the same thing IMHO.
4. Don’t discuss previous criminal history of the defendant or personal knowledge of the defendant. (This one would also be easy to avoid and so far hasn’t been seen on this site by me). Anything of this nature would need to be moderated if it happens.
5. Discussion of the investigation specifics. Once sub judice, comments by police are generally restricted to little more than requests for witnesses to come forward. If those in the know wish to comment on this site with the specifics of the evidence against the defendant (other than what has already been provided in open court when charging/bail applications) then that may be contempt.

As far as I’m concerned all other discussion about the circumstances of the alleged crime in general, expected sentencing for the alleged offender (if found guilty) etc is fine. I don’t see anything written so far that would be close to contempt of court. This is particularly as everybody is speaking from no apparent personal knowledge.

If someone was to come on and crap on about the defendant specifically with actual or apparent knowledge then that is a different story.

Just a guess, but I don’t think adding the word “alleged” does enough. I’m pretty sure a court would look at the substance, not the last coat of whitewash.

Just add the word alleged to all your statements when the (alleged) offender is mentioned directly.

That’s not how I’d read it, Sepi. It’s not just sub judice, contempt, defamation or whatever, although anyone who does not consider that kind of thing is, frankly, irresponsible.

The lady left family – her daughters were on the front page of the Canberra Times. She was said to have been the carer for a sick husband. Using her death to make insupportable and irresponsible statements is not helpful of kind to those she left behind.

So we’re allowed to discuss our thoughts about he case as part of ongoing public duscussion/debate, as long as wel dont’ bring up the offender’s name (if not public knowledge), prior convictions that are not public knowledge etc.


Lock him up!

Having said that some of the Magistrates have a phenomenal memory for crooks and know exactly their criminal histories from whey convicted them previously.

The distinction is that it is the defendant’s right to test the evidence against him/her which includes the credibility of the witnesses (their crim history, sexual history if relevant) BUT only evidence that directly relates to the charges that they are facing can be admitted in court. So a long term burglar facing a burglary charge does not have his history admitted because the magistrate/judge/jury would be influenced by that rather than the witness/forensic/police evidence alone.

It has long puzzled me that details of prior convictions are not allowed to be available to the court (or jury, more specifically). I’m sure that prior actions by persons on the prosecution side (for example, victims of rape) are well detailed during the court process.

Why can a loser not be illuminated as such? It would have more bearing on a safe conviction than hoping against hope that (s)he had nothing to do with the crime.

Thanks for that, TAD. ’nuff said about why I was worried about things like “statements about the guilt or innocence of the accused”. I now feel all judicial and legal.


The law of contempt of court is a set of rules which have been developed whereby persons who engage in conduct tending to interfere with the administration of justice may be subjected to legal sanctions.

Numerous types of conduct may attract liability for contempt. The form of contempt known as “sub judice” aims to protect a person’s right to a fair trial. Accordingly, a person may be found in contempt of court if they publish (online or otherwise) prejudicial material concerning matters which are, or will be, before the court. This restriction on free speech applies throughout the period in which a case is in the court system. In a criminal case, this period is usually from the time the accused is arrested, until a not guilty verdict has been delivered or all possible avenues of appeal have been exhausted.

Information which is considered to be prejudicial includes details of prior convictions, material or statements which create an adverse impression of the accused, statements about the guilt or innocence of the accused, and in some cases, the identification of the accused.

A limited form of defence to contempt exists which recognises the need for ongoing public discussion about matters of public concern. If material is published in the context of a continuing public debate about an issue, and the risk of prejudice resulting from the material is an incidental and unintended by-product, then publication may not be contemptuous.



Well said – very fair!

Sub judice is beyond me.

TAD – the question is not whether the police acted reasonably and, though our coppers are capable of error, I doubt they would get it outrageously wrong. My first problem is that they might get it a little wrong. My question is whether uninformed speculation does anyone or anything any good.

Reduce the discourse so far to its elements. A sad thing happened. We all agree that it’s not good when sad things happen. At some earlier point, someone did something that was bad or careless or the result of sickness. We all agree that people should not do bad things – if we discussed it, we would also agree that it is unfortunate when people do things that cause harm to others, even if they do them unintentionally. We agree that society, through established judicial mechanisms, should punish people found to have done bad things. If we discussed it, we might argue about the relevance of consequence to culpability.

That’s all pretty abstract, but I’d suggest it’s the most we can do. There is no certainty and no point in discussing on (a) an assumption the accused is the perpetrator, (b) an assumption the perpetrator is, in a criminal sense, culpable for something, (c) an assumption that the death would have occurred because of the actions of the perpetrator, (d) an assumption that a particular punishment would be appropriate when we know nothing of (i) what charges might be brought and proven or (ii) what other factors might affect sentence.

I’d still be really grateful if someone with some knowledge gave a ten line burst on sub judice/contempt for all our benefits.

VP I’m sure police had the reasonable grounds / evidence to arrest the defendant.

Someone declining to make admissions is not a reason to think that police haven’t done their job.

Sepi – but we still do not know with certainty that the right person is in custody (“it’s not my fault” is hardly an admission). Someone of similar physical features, in similar clothes ….. If, as claimed, it had happened to another person, that may suggest no more than that the perpetrator was consistently uncoordinated, and that could be down to intoxication or some kind of neural problem.

You will, however, get absolutely no argument from me about the abysmal crumminess of anyone who is found to have assaulted an older lady (or, indeed, anyone vulnerable).

yeah – but I don’t care what his defence will be. And I’m not his lawyer, so I don’t have to.

Some things there are no excuse for. Skittling old ladies is one of them.

The possibility of an accident has gone, given the prior attack on someone else, and the video footage.

TAD – I’m in love with chewing more than one kind of fat around a barbie. But, in this case, there are claims of a serious criminal offence for which someone might get charged and, if convicted, might be given a long sentence. It’s not the same as debating whether Billy Bloggs managed to get the ball down before knocking out the corner post.

And Sepi – the last sentence was for you as well. Professional sport usually needs several video angles to attain certainty in anything other than a clearcut case. I don’t know if identification is or will be an issue. I don’t know if there will be a guilty plea or if there will be a defence of (a) it was an accident or (b) the voices told me or (c) I formed the view she was going to attack me. Nor, I suggest, do you.

We do know that it was a shoulder charge on an old lady, and we know that the offender did it to another older person on the same day.

I don’t care about his state of mind beyond – if he is a nutter he should be locked up in a secure mental facility. If he is just violent for fun (same thing?) he should go to jail.


The whole point of this site is for those who have no idea of a subject to express a strong opinion about it ala blokes standing around a BBQ.

It was only JB that had delusions of this site being anything remotely similar to journalism.

Yes there is a lot that we don’t know but your whole last paragraph is mute when video shows the incident.

Ralph – as the story develops, some of the initial responses (genuine and heartfelt though they are) are seeming a little premature. This is the problem to which I adverted. It is, frankly, a bit Today Tonightish to start making definitive comments, such as suggested sentences and punishments, without definitive information.

(I’d also like someone with a clue to explain the sub judice thing for the benefit of all of us).

We still don’t know if the arrested person was the one who did it. We don’t realy know if this was a shoulder charge on an older lady (which would be a rotten, ugly, horrible thing to do) or simply a collision of the kind that happens sometimes and usually doesn’t go bad. And we don’t know a lot about the accused’s mental state, other than that he presented somewhat strangely in court.

Interesting how much the reported facts change from the 1st to the latest DT story. Maybe some journos getting carried away with themselves in a rush to be the first with the story?

Yep – if you make a habit of violently shoving random old people, you have to eventually expect that someone will be seriously hurt.

I’d throw the book at him.

It’s a little bit more than that Woody. This human vermin has made a b line for the victim, and shoulder charged her and pushed her with both hands with the force the send a man flying (let alone an old lady). The poor old dear landed on her back on the metal bike racks.

Just because it took her half an hour to drop dead does not mean that the assault had nothing to do with it. That will all have to be sorted out in court IF/WHEN he is charged with manslaughter.

christicehurst3:30 am 25 Aug 07

Ralph, just have a look at how many guvvie flats there are nearby to Civic – do you think there’s a link?

That quote maybe true but I do live in one of these areas. I’m a student myself and don’t spent my time knocking down old ladies and taking drugs. Just the others…

Ohh ahh. Looks like the man really was not responsible for her dicky heart.

He was just rude and an idiot, not a mugger.

“So I can figure out a plea out of what’s in my mind … so I can figure out what’s in my brain,”

Talking like that, I would have jumped to the conclusion that he had head butted something. A brick wall perhaps. But more likely is that he’s just an idiot. Anyway, he needs time to figure out what’s in his head… ok? I wouldn’t think it would take long judging by his obviously negligible IQ.

Woody Mann-Caruso11:22 pm 24 Aug 07

So it’s gone from “man headbutts gran to death” to “man shoulder charges gran to death” to “man pushes gran over, who gets up, keeps shopping for half an hour, then has a heart attack”?

It’s getting tough to be an Oldie in Australia with young men like this around, and the one who killed the Howles. They live for decades, doing their bit, and then have to die like this. I think a lot of people are getting well and truely sick of it.

Despite the dodgy headline, the tele is the most accurate version of the story. (Not at least because they didn’t invent the headbutting aspect like the others.)


There is a defib machine in the one of the car parks and at the info desk. Unfortunately, there are only really two heart rhythms in which a shock will help. The machine knows this, and knows when to shock. But if it isn’t one of these two rhythms, then all the defibrillators in the world could not have saved the woman.

If it is a heart attack, as the news articles are saying, defibrillators won’t help either – that’s where blood can’t get to a part of the heart tissue and it dies. That’s normally either caused by a blood clot or cholesterol deposits or both together.

The defib will do some good in sme circumstances. If it was a shock related heart attack, then the defib could increase a persons chances by a reasonable percentage, though they won’t do miracles. If there were serious internal injuries, the defib will have little effect.
Still, they defibs are very prominent at Tuggeranong Hyperdome, I know where they are at Woden. But in such a large centre, CC is under resourced in the department.

There is something about nut cases and the Canberra Centre though. A few cases like this wherea wierdo will just snap and do something have occured. Anyone remember about three years ago when a 30 yar old man ran into David Jones on the Ground floor and set him self alight. I was there, couldn’t be the same bloke could it?

Ralph, just have a look at how many guvvie flats there are nearby to Civic – do you think there’s a link?

I’ve always found Civic to be dingy and full of undesirables.

The magistrate said that this person is “… a really unpleasent member of society”, after the scum said that it was not his fault.

Decapitation is too goo for him

Gungahlin Al1:05 pm 24 Aug 07

As I said in the other article, there has been a gradual but very definite decline in the safety of people in the City Centre over recent months.
And it is not just at night time. I’ve had an incident at 8.30 in the morning with one of the residents from the same area. And he was outside my office at 5.30 last night up to the same behaviour, and shepherding his drugged up beggar girls.
There are several others too. But it is only a handful of people.

So what has changed?
The police presence in the Mall has gone – that’s what. No beat office, no plods on the beat. These dregs of life can act with virtual impunity (unless there’s a camera nearby – but too late for the victim).

Canberra is small enough that walking the streets in the daytime or even at night should not be a life-threatening pasttime.

Minister Corbell, I hope you are reading this.
It is clearly beyond time to act, and to give everyone a measure of security back when they are in the city.

Gungahlin Al12:53 pm 24 Aug 07

CC do have a defib at their Info desk – no wait their info desk has been MIA for months while the building is finished…..

Absolute tosh about contempt of court.

The public has a right to express its free speech of opinion on how the courts should handle the matter.

Exactly so Che. The machine will even refuse to charge you if you “aren’t” having a heartattack.

You’ll find defriberrs all over actually.

I’ve heard that Woden Plaza and Belconnen Mall have defibrillators available at them for immediate use when someone has a heart attack, does Canberra Centre have them? Supposedly if they are applied during a heart attack that the patient has a far greater chance of surviving.
The instructions are along the lines of “Step one, apply patches to body here and here. Step two, turn on machine” and that’s it, the defibrillator does all the rest from there.

“…..could look stupid once all the facts are aired.”

Yeah, I can’t wait to see the facts on why a 31 year old thinks it okay to shoulder charge elderly people!!!!!

Oh, of course – the voices told him to do it!

Ralph – correct on fair comment I think, but (a) I think some comments are going OTT by any such standard and (b) whether or not this would amount to a punishable contempt, it’s really not useful and could look stupid once all the facts are aired.

From The Australian:

“A MAN charged over a fatal attack on a 71-year-old woman at a central Canberra shopping centre was today ordered to undergo a mental health assessment.

Matthew Raymond Nicholls, 31, from Ainslie in Canberra appeared in ACT Magistrates Court today on a charge of assault occasioning actual bodily harm.

Police said the charge could be upgraded pending the results of a post-mortem examination.

Mr Nicholls allegedly slammed into another man in his 60s in the Canberra Centre yesterday morning before shoulder-charging the woman.

She staggered to a nearby shop where she had a heart attack.

She was taken to the Calvary Hospital where she died, police said.

Mr Nicholls refused legal aid today and Magistrate Beth Campbell ordered him to have a mental health assessment.”

I hate to say it, if the alleged offender claims to be either drug effected or mentally ill then they will get off. OK if it is Mental Illness then i am prepared to cut some, and i say some slack. However, if it was as a result of drugs, then take the responsiblity for your actions whether or not you were off your face and didn’t know.

…waiting for the chorus of bleeding hearts.

I reckon that the guy most likely has a mental illness…

Lets hope Higgins isn’t the judge..

Execution; but make it slow and painful. Even better – force him to watch re-runs of Big Brother while his life slowly ebbs away.

VYBerlinaV8 now_with_added grunt10:24 am 24 Aug 07

If the offender was drug affected, increase the penalty from life sentence to death.

We are entitled express fair comment.

See comments on the earlier blog on this. Now someone’s been charged, it’s best say nowt.

Death sentence.

Life sentence.

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