He was grieving and didn’t mean any harm
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.