24 March 2021

Court hears PTSD may have played a part in Gungahlin murder

| Albert McKnight

Divorced father-of-one Jae-Ho Oh, 56, was murdered at his home in Gungahlin in March 2019. Photo: ACT Police.

Murder accused Joshua Higgins feared he had been sexually assaulted when he woke up with his alleged victim Jae-Ho Oh lying on top of him, the ACT Supreme Court has heard.

The 32-year-old has pleaded not guilty to murdering the divorced Korean father-of-one, with whom he had been friends for years, and is currently standing trial.

Mr Higgins is accused of stabbing his alleged victim 14 times in the neck and back, as well as bashing his face with a soundbar speaker four times after the pair had a fight at Mr Oh’s one-bedroom Gungahlin home on 11 March 2019.

READ MORE Drinking ‘friend’ denies murdering Gungahlin’s Jae-Ho Oh in frenzied attack

On Tuesday (23 March), forensic psychiatrist Dr Stephen Allnutt told the court he believed Mr Higgins had chronic post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and that on the night of March 11 two years ago he had been suffering from an abnormality of the mind, which could have impaired his mental functioning.

He said, due to PTSD, Mr Higgins was more likely to react to a perceived threat and that a triggering event for someone suffering from the disorder could be real or just perceived.

Dr Allnutt said Mr Higgins appeared to develop symptoms after he was badly assaulted in January 2010, with his barrister Kieran Ginges from Burley Griffin Chambers saying he had been kicked in the head and lost consciousness.

Dr Allnutt also said Mr Higgins had taken the drug “ice”, or methylamphetamine, about 24 hours before arriving at Mr Oh’s house on the night of 9 March and had not slept over that time.

He said Mr Higgins had told him he tried to go to sleep on a bed in the living room, but was unable to sleep. He alleged at one point Mr Oh lay on top of him while he was awake.

Mr Higgins did not sleep that night and the court heard he spent the next day, 10 March, drinking with Mr Oh, estimating he had about 30 standard drinks.

READ ALSO Court hears murder accused’s version of night Gungahlin man died

The court heard when he finally went to bed that evening, after remaining awake for about 60 hours, he woke up to Mr Oh lying on top of him again.

Dr Allnutt said Mr Higgins told him when he woke up his pants appeared to have been pulled down around his waist and the two had an argument that escalated, with Mr Oh allegedly running to the kitchen to grab a knife.

Dr Allnutt said when Mr Higgins woke up “he perceived himself to be sexually assaulted”.

Under cross-examination from prosecutor Trent Hickey, Dr Allnut said a major difference between the first night Mr Oh allegedly lay on Mr Higgins and the second night was that Mr Higgins was awake the first time, while in the second he woke up with the perception he had been sexually assaulted.

Also, Dr Allnutt said when Mr Oh allegedly grabbed a knife from the kitchen Mr Higgins told him that: “At the time I thought he was going to kill me”.

The court heard Mr Higgins allegedly said he did not think he would kill Mr Oh by stabbing him because he did not use a knife with a large blade and he was “just trying to survive”.

The trial continues before Justice John Burns.

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