Killer Student `bent On Suicide', Court Told

The Age

Thursday September 7, 2000


A student who murdered one man and tried to kill two other people at La Trobe University was bent on suicide in an orgy of destruction, a Supreme Court judge heard yesterday.

Prosecutor Joe Dickson, QC, said Jonathon Brett Horrocks, 39, told police he intended to kill seven or eight people and force police to shoot him.

He said the bravery and calculated actions of student union general manager Michael Torney, who grappled with Horrocks and disarmed him after the earlier shootings, might have saved many other lives.

Horrocks, formerly of Chisholm College at the university, has pleaded guilty to murdering a university bar supervisor, Leonardo Michael Capraro, 50, on August 3 last year. He also pleaded guilty to charges of attempted murder and reckless conduct endangering life.

Forensic psychiatrist Paul Mullen told Justice Frank Vincent that Horrocks, an honors student majoring in English and drama, was depressed but not mentally impaired.

Professor Mullen agreed with defence counsel Daryl Wraith that Horrocks spoke of hearing voices that told him to kill. He said Horrocks had no history of violence, but a combination of factors led to the disaster.

``We have a man bent on suicide and (on) killing himself in the context of an orgy of destruction," he said.

Mr Dickson said Horrocks shot science student and part-time bar worker Sally Mitchell in the chest at the Eagle bar in the university's student union building about 11am on August 3. He then shot and killed Mr Capraro, firing five shots from a revolver and hitting him with four, and was later disarmed by Mr Torney when searching for another administrator.

Mr Dickson said Horrocks underwent psychological counselling in 1999, and saw himself as fat and ugly and felt stress over what he perceived was a reduction in his working hours at the Eagle bar.

Horrocks told the counsellor he heard voices telling him to assault those responsible for the reduction in working hours and also had dreams, Mr Dickson said. The demands grew from assaults to killing people with firearms. Horrocks also mentioned the Port Arthur massacre during the counselling sessions.

Mr Wraith said the counsellor offered Horrocks follow-up treatment when she left the university, but he did not have it. He said Horrocks regretted his actions but still held the view that he had been unfairly treated. He asked Justice Vincent to impose a fixed sentence with a minimum term.

Mr Dickson said a life sentence and a minimum term were ``not inappropriate".

He said Horrocks left a note on his desk on the day of the shootings declaring he was not crazy and had tried legal ways to find justice for being wronged.

Mr Dickson said Horrocks used the Shakesperean quote ``Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war", but should have read on and included the passage that followed. It was: ``That this foul deed shall smell above the earth with carrion men groaning for burial."

Justice Vincent remanded Horrocks for sentencing.

© 2000 The Age

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