20 April 2024

Threat to repeat Sydney church stabbing allegedly made to Canberra medical staff

| Albert McKnight

Dragutin Rajak gestures at media after being charged and granted bail on Thursday. Photo: Albert McKnight.

Just two days after this week’s widely publicised stabbing at a Sydney church, a man allegedly threatened a repeat of the “terrible” event when he was with medical staff in Canberra.

Dragutin Rajak, 65, was charged with threatening to act with intent to cause public alarm over the alleged incident before he was granted bail.

On Monday night (15 April), a 16-year-old boy allegedly stabbed Bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel at the Assyrian Christ the Good Shepherd church in Wakeley in an incident that is being treated by authorities as an act of terrorism.

It is alleged a priest was also stabbed, while police officers were injured when a riot started outside the church.

Then, on Wednesday morning (17 April), Mr Rajak went to an aged care home in the ACT because his mother was being taken there from the Canberra Hospital, court documents say.

When his mother’s condition deteriorated at the facility, he allegedly became aggressive to staff, telling them that he was angry and clenching his fists.

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While near aged care and ambulance workers, Mr Rajak allegedly said something like, “I’m going to do that thing that happened in Sydney at the church. I’m going to kill that doctor, his family, his kids and his staff”.

Early that afternoon, police officers found Mr Rajak inside the Canberra Hospital. He allegedly told them he was trying to get the details of the doctors who treated his mother to lodge a complaint or take legal action over the care of his mother.

He allegedly claimed to be a former officer with the Australian Federal Police and refused to hand over a leatherman multitool that he had attached to his belt, which police say is a tool that has several knife-like blades.

outside view of Canberra hospital emergency department

Police took 65-year-old Dragutin Rajak into custody while at the Canberra Hospital. Photo: File.

The officers asked him if he would undertake a voluntary mental health assessment, but he refused. When they tried to take him into police custody, he allegedly reached for his pouch that contained his leatherman before the officers stopped him.

“I said what was I left to do, do I have to do what was done in Sydney?” he allegedly told them.

He allegedly resisted being handcuffed and had to be taken to the ground by four police officers.

In court documents, police allege the comments about the Sydney church were a reference to the stabbing of Bishop Emmanuel.

“It has been two days since this incident occurred, and it was preceded by another mass casualty event at Bondi Junction in Sydney on the 13th April 2024,” police said.

“Both incidents have been widely reported in the media and have caused serious distress and alarm amongst the Australian community due to the violent nature of the attacks, specifically relating to the use of knives to stab persons.”

Mr Rajak, who is from Monash, faced the ACT Magistrates Court on Thursday (18 April), where he was also charged with resisting public officials and applied for bail.

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His Legal Aid lawyer said he was an “active grandparent”, “cares deeply for his family”, had significant ties to the community and had a limited criminal history. She also said there may be some mental health concerns at play.

Prosecutor Samuel Carmichael opposed bail and said the alleged threat was “extremely concerning given the context”.

Chief Magistrate Lorraine Walker said it was concerning Mr Rajak allegedly made comments about “a terrible incident” in Sydney, causing people “extreme fear” that it could be repeated.

She said he had been unhappy with how his mother was being looked after in hospital. While an assessment found he had no mental health issues, he was suffering from “carer stress”.

The magistrate said that while he allegedly “appears to have said something stupid”, she had no basis to refuse him bail, which was granted on the condition that he not harass Canberra Hospital staff or go within 100 metres of the hospital.

The matter was adjourned to 9 May. No pleas were entered.

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