KEITH FRASER /vancouversun/
A Fort St. John woman accused of fatally stabbing a much-loved Burnaby social worker has been found not criminally responsible due to a mental disorder.
Ayelech Ejigu, 46, pleaded not guilty to the September 2011 second-degree murder of Bayush Hagos, 57, in the victim’s apartment.
In a 175-page ruling released Monday, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Barry Davies found that the Crown had established beyond a reasonable doubt that Ejigu, a mother of three, used a knife or knives to stab Hagos at least 79 times.
The victim had taken the accused into her home while Ejigu was on bail and awaiting the continuation of her trial in Vancouver on a charge that she had attempted to murder her husband.
Responding to a 911 call, police arrived at Hagos’s apartment in the 4100-block Maywood Street to find Hagos lying on the floor of her bedroom covered in blood.
Hagos was seen to have large wounds to her hamstring muscle and around her back, neck and head. Ejigu was found on the apartment balcony lying on her back with a small steak knife in her hand.
When she was told to put the knife down, she began to strike the side of her head with the serrated edge of the knife. She was shaking violently and making incomprehensible sounds before police removed the knife from her hands.
Prosecutors argued that when the accused killed Hagos, she did so intentionally and was therefore guilty but Ejigu’s lawyers argued that she was suffering from a mental disorder at the time that rendered her incapable of appreciating the nature and quality of her acts.
Justice Davies said that the totality of the evidence convinced him that since June 2010, Ejigu has suffered from a serious mental disorder characterized by both psychotic and depressive features and symptoms.
“I conclude that, based upon my consideration of the whole of the evidence, it is more likely than not that when Ms. Ejigu killed Ms. Hagos by stabbing her with a knife or knives more than 79 times, she did so because of psychotic delusions driven by persecutory beliefs that she was acting in self-defence.”
The attempted murder trial had been moved to the Lower Mainland from Fort St. John, where Ejigu lived with her husband.
Ejigu, who came to Canada from Ethiopia, was acquitted of the attempted murder charge on the grounds that she was a battered spouse.
She testified that her husband was abusive toward her to the point where she feared for her life and that he forced her to watch pornography and perform sexual acts she found degrading.
Three psychiatrists — Dr. Mark Riley, Dr. Jeanette Smith and Dr. Stanley Semrau — testified during the lengthy NCRMD hearing in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver.
Riley and Smith supported Ejigu’s defence while Semrau, testifying for the Crown, did not support the defence.
After rendering his verdict, the judge ordered that the case be referred to the B.C. Review Board, which is expected within 45 days to make an assessment of Ejigu, who will remain at the Forensic Psychiatric Hospital in Coquitlam.
Gordon Comer, a spokesman for the Crown, said outside court that the decision “wasn’t really unexpected” given the testimony of the psychiatrists.
“The Crown needs time to review it and consider it.”
A woman who worked with Hagos for 10 years and was one of her close friends wanted to know why no inquiry had been made into Ejigu’s initial release on bail.
“Somebody should review the process of releasing her in the first place,” the friend, who declined to give her name, said outside court.