Father forgives daughter’s carer for arson attack
The father of a wheelchair-bound woman trapped in a bathroom by her full-time carer when he set her unit alight says he forgives the man, who he disliked from the moment they first met.
Reading a powerful victim impact statement in the Supreme Court, Rachel Cameron's father Rod Cameron said he was "yet to ascertain what actually transpired at the time of the offence" at his daughter's Woodville West unit on July 16, 2018.
Her carer, Peter Wiszniewski, 53, appeared in the Supreme Court via video link from secure mental health facility James Nash House. He was previously found not guilty of arson and attempted murder by reason of mental incompetence.
Mr Cameron, 74, says Wiszniewski spent eight years as the full-time live-in carer for his now-36-year-old daughter, who suffers from the degenerative Huntington's disease.
He said during that time Wiszniewski had prevented him from visiting Ms Cameron.
"I took a dislike to Peter Wiszniewski from our first meeting," he said.
He said Wiszniewski's appointment as carer was "expedient" at a time the state's health system was struggling to cope with care for the disabled.
"I was not allowed to see my daughter for any reason, her birthday (or) Christmas," he said.
"He kept her as if she had no family. I lost time with my daughter that cannot be replaced."
Mr Cameron said despite her declining health, Wiszniewski "would not want to surrender Rachel to care for others to take over".
"I am hoping his stay in James Nash House has given him access (now forced upon him) of psychiatric help and now, or in the future, he has benefited by their counselling," he said.
"It is no good feeling bitter towards him … I hope he moves on to better times.
"If there is anything positive that came out of the fire in the unit it is (that) Rachel got the structure, services and supports she required to end her life's journey.
"I forgive Peter as there is no spare time in my life to entertain the alternative. I still have Rachel's journey to complete."
Mr Cameron, who cared for his wife for 11 years while she also battled Huntington's disease, has three of four children affected by the inherited rare and progressive disorder.
Kos Lesses, prosecuting, said Ms Cameron was "very, very vulnerable" as she was physically handicapped and trapped inside the burning unit, which Wiszniewski had barricaded.
"Her life was saved thanks to the initiative of the neighbours and the police and firemen who attended at the house and physically rescued her.
He said Wiszniewski had limited insight into his offending. He said this release back into the community should be "guarded and gradual".
Michael Hegarty, for Wiszniewski, said his client was yet to give a reason for his actions, he had no "serious intent" to kill Ms Cameron.
He said he had "attempted to protect" Ms Cameron by placing her in the shower and placed towels on the floor while calling for help. He said witnesses reported he was "desperate" to remove her from danger.
"This behaviour is inconsistent with a person who wished to murder," he said.
"He loved her and there is no way that he wanted to kill her or himself."
The matter returns to court next month.
Originally published as Father forgives daughter's carer for arson attack