WA beach stab killer ‘had God delusions’

A man who stabbed a stranger to death on a West Australian beach after a drug binge has had delusions of being God and possessed by the devil.

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A woman walking her dog saw Daniel Luke Zwerus dragging the body of Ilario Maiolo into the surf at a Mandurah beach in May 2013.

She then saw him leaving a trail of blood from a cut to his hand inflicted during a frenzied attack that left the victim with 18 stab wounds and jaw fractures.

The West Australian Supreme Court heard during sentencing on Friday that Zwerus then embarked on an elaborate attempt to hide evidence, stealing a fresh shirt and a bicycle from people’s backyards and abandoning other items along the way.

These included bloodstained clothes, the knife and the victim’s wallet, which he’d emptied of cash.

He also insisted a woman drive him to the other side of a golf course, sitting between her and her daughter on the front bench seat, then sliding down to hide from a police car the woman didn’t see.

Zwerus was arrested the next day at Peel Health Campus after seeking treatment for his cut hand.

The court heard he was assessed as psychotic, and had at different times claimed to be God and possessed by the devil.

He initially pleaded not guilty, with his lawyer indicating he may enter an insanity plea.

But in January this year, he changed his plea to guilty.

On Friday, the court heard Zwerus had been using methamphetamine and cannabis daily for at least a fortnight in the lead up to the attack.

His mother and a friend had noticed his behaviour had become increasingly bizarre. They thought he appeared paranoid and delusional and was suffering hallucinations.

Defence lawyer Tony Elliott said Zwerus did not deny the crime but his psychosis at the time of the offending needed to be taken into account in sentencing.

“He was operating under the delusion he could perceive things about people that would justify the taking of their lives,” Mr Elliott said.

“You don’t punish people for their insanity. We might say you do if it’s self-induced and I accept that’s the case.”

But Zwerus’ intent was not a rational, cold one, he said, and he’d slipped between the cracks of the mental health service.

Justice Stephen Hall noted the fact Zwerus had sought assistance for his mental problems, so had some understanding of his state.

“Are you saying he was not aware of the effect these drugs were having on him?” Justice Hall asked.

Mr Elliott argued seeking help should go in his client’s favour, not against him.

The sentencing continues.

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