Deaths sparked WA system review

THE DEATHS of two Mountain River academics at the hands of a mentally ill man sparked a review of the West Australian mental health system.

At the Supreme Court in Hobart on Thursday, Nicolau Francisco Soares, 29, was found not guilty by reason of insanity to murdering his mother, Dr Delys Weston, and step-father, Professor Gavin Mooney.

During a four-day trial this week, the court heard the couple were bludgeoned to death by Soares while he was experiencing a psychotic episode caused by schizophrenia in December 2012.

Evidence was given that Mr Soares was a client of the West Australian health service at the time of the attacks and had arrived in Tasmania just two weeks earlier.

Speaking outside court after the verdicts were returned, Mr Soares's family said they had pleaded with his treating team for an increased level of care.

Ms Soares's brother Alex said the family had been ignored and shut out of his treatment.

"We understand that what has happened is a direct result of, one, his untreated mental illness and, two, the failures of the West Australian mental health system," Alex Soares said.

West Australian Mental Health Minister Helen Morton said the case was sad and tragic, and extended her condolences to the Soares family. Ms Morton said the Health Department had fallen out of contact with Mr Soares for some time before the attacks.

"During the month of November unsuccessful attempts were made by the Department of Health to contact Mr Soares," Ms Morton said.

"It wasn't until December when contact was re-established by a family member that the department became aware of his whereabouts and sought to link Mr Soares with local supports in Tasmania."

Ms Morton said the case prompted the department to rethink its handling of people with mental illness.

"The Department of Health undertook an internal review of system issues and made several recommendations, which were communicated to the Soares family," she said.

"However, I do recognise the need for greater family and carer involvement in the treatment and care of their loved ones.

"This is why the Mental Health Bill currently before Parliament will support the active involvement of families and carers," Ms Morton said.

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