He was griev­ing and didn’t mean any harm

Sunday Mail - - NEWS - AN­DREW DOWDELL

THE MAN dubbed the “south­ern sub­urbs stalker” was driven by grief, anger and drug abuse – and not a sex­ual mo­ti­va­tion – when he ran­domly ap­proached six women, an Ade­laide court has heard.

Jie Daniel Cur­tis sparked a man­hunt that lasted four days when, armed with a knife, he stalked the women as they walked in sub­urbs in­clud­ing Glan­dore, Malvern, Un­ley – and at Hewett, near Gawler.

The in­ci­dents hap­pened amid height­ened fears for women’s safety about a fort­night af­ter the in­fa­mous Salt Creek back­packer at­tacks com­mit­ted by sex preda­tor Ro­man Heinze, and po­lice warned of “grave con­cerns” that Cur­tis’s of­fend­ing could turn vi­o­lent if he was not caught.

Cur­tis, 37, went to trial in the District Court but pleaded guilty to six charges, in­clud­ing as­sault with in­tent to com­mit an of­fence, be­fore his vic­tims were called to give ev­i­dence.

De­spite in­tense pub­lic­ity sur­round­ing the hunt for Cur­tis, his lawyer, An­drew FowlerWalker, said his client was never driven by a sex­ual mo­tive or an urge to harm the women.

“It’s easy to jump to that con­clu­sion; the po­lice did, the pros­e­cu­tion did, in­deed the me­dia have,” Mr Fowler-Walker said.

“There was noth­ing of the sort. It cer­tainly ap­peared that way ini­tially. He was quite rightly ter­ri­fied that peo­ple thought it was sex­u­ally mo­ti­vated and he thought that peo­ple were al­leg­ing he in­tended to kill peo­ple.”

The court heard Cur­tis was grief-stricken by the sui­cide of his fi­ancee sev­eral years ear­lier and was reg­u­larly vis­it­ing her gravesite and hear­ing her voice in his head at the time of the of­fend­ing.

Cur­tis told a psy­chi­a­trist he be­lieved he ap­proached the women be­cause he was “look­ing for (his fi­ancee) to man­i­fest some way in them” while in a near-psy­chotic state from metham­phetamine abuse.

“He was up­set at his life, he was an­gry about the sit­u­a­tion he found him­self in and he ap­proached these women to scare them, and that was the in­tent of his harm,” Mr Fowler-Walker said.

When po­lice searched Cur­tis’s home in the days be­fore he was ar­rested on a train at Brighton, they found pho­tos of him and his fi­ancee strewn across his bed.

Mr Fowler-Walker said Cur­tis’s men­tal health was in a “down­ward spiral” and was “as close as one might get as be­ing in a drug-in­duced psy­chosis with­out it be­ing a men­tal in­com­pe­tence de­fence”.

The court heard Cur­tis had un­suc­cess­fully tried to im­ple­ment a men­tal-health treat­ment plan months be­fore the in­ci­dents and was un­der­go­ing coun­selling while in cus­tody.

Cur­tis apol­o­gised to his vic­tims in a let­ter read from the dock, say­ing: “I truly feel hor­ri­ble for my ac­tions.”

He of­fered the women the chance to “vent and get clo­sure” and said he would an­swer any ques­tions they had.

But prose­cu­tor Stephen Plum­mer said Cur­tis had not spent more than eight months at a time out­side jail since be­com­ing an adult and his prospects were “par­tic­u­larly poor”.

Cur­tis has con­vic­tions for steal­ing cars and po­lice pur­suits but had not com­mit­ted any crimes of a vi­o­lent or sex­ual na­ture.

How­ever, Mr Plum­mer said Cur­tis’s crimes and the use of a knife were dis­turb­ing and war­ranted a hefty sen­tence.

“This is a man who, over the course of his adult life, has be­haved in this im­pul­sive way. The prospects are quite poor that he’s to be re­ha­bil­i­tated,” Mr Plum­mer said.

“The real fear is this is an es­ca­la­tion of the way he has been be­hav­ing and that he will con­tinue to do so – that is the real fear for the court.”

Judge So­phie David noted that Cur­tis had, for the first time, ac­knowl­edged he needed coun­selling to stay off drugs and re­manded him in cus­tody ahead of sen­tenc­ing later this month.

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