Mum's shocking act of kindness for son's killer
Liam Anderson's mother has embraced Mathew Flame in a Sydney court, telling him she forgives him after he was found not guilty of her son's murder but guilty of his manslaughter.
Flame, now 22, of Narraweena, had pleaded not guilty to murdering his close mate and Rose Tattoo singer Angry Anderson's son Liam, 26, during an ecstasy-fuelled bender on Sydney's northern beaches in November 2018.
A three-week trial in the NSW Supreme Court was told they were kicking on at a friend's house when Flame started to hallucinate and brutally bashed Mr Anderson to death in a small Queenscliff park because he thought he was a demon "who just wanted me dead".
After two full days of deliberating the jury on Thursday returned a verdict of not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter.
When the verdict was read out Flame broke down in the dock, turned to his family members and said "I'm sorry" to which his mother replied "don't ever be sorry".
In an emotional scene Flame, his mother and Mr Anderson's mother Lindy embraced each other in tears while he was in the dock.
Outside court, Mrs Anderson said she forgave Flame for what he did and said there were no winners.
"There's no winner … no one's winning out of this, yeah I do (forgive him),' Mrs Anderson said.
Solicitor Leonie Gittani, who was on Flame's defence team, said the verdict on the lesser charge of manslaughter was a relief.
"A sense of relief , that's pretty much all we can say at the moment while proceedings are still on foot, but there is a sense of relief," she said.
Ms Gitanni said Flame was touched by Mrs Anderson's hug and her act of compassion in forgiving him.
"Very much so, it was quite obvious to everyone in the court," she said.
"It was a bit emotional, it's been a tough journey for him and a tough journey for everyone."
Flame will return to court in December to be sentenced.
Prosecutors alleged Flame had a healthy mind but fell into a psychosis that was sparked by his voluntary drug use, while his defence team argued he had undiagnosed schizophrenia at the time of the killing and should be found not guilty by way of mental impairment.
Crown prosecutor Gareth Christofi said the onus was on Flame's legal team to prove on the balance of probabilities he was substantially impaired during the incident if he was to be convicted of manslaughter and not murder.
During his summing up, Justice Richard Button told the jury if the defence of mental illness had not been established or all of the elements of murder had not been proven - including voluntariness or a mental ailment - they would need to reflect on the lesser charge of manslaughter.
"Manslaughter, in contrast to murder, is a form of homicide that is somehow reduced in severity, or committed in extenuating circumstances, or to be explained or excused in some limited way," he said.
"In contrast, I have also spoken of the special legal and personal condemnation that Australian society reserves for a person labelled as murderer.
"That is the value judgment you are asked to reflect carefully upon as part of the defence of substantial impairment if you come to it in your reasoning process.
"Has the accused tipped the balance ever so slightly in favour of your assessment being that in all of the circumstances of this case - in particular his mental state at the time of the fatal assault - he should be labelled as person who has committed the offence of manslaughter, not murder?"
The court was told Flame's defence barrister John Stratton, SC, would not resist a verdict of manslaughter.
In his closing address to the jury after a three-week trial, Mr Stratton said Flame suffered another psychotic episode while on remand a month after fatally bashing Mr Anderson and was taken to hospital.
He reminded the jury that forensic psychiatrist Dr Kerri Eagle was asked in court about the two episodes and said: "I don't think it's likely that they had a different psychiatric cause".
Dr Eagle was then asked, "would it be a remarkable coincidence if those two events so close in time had different psychiatric causes?" to which she replied: "Yes, I think it would be extraordinary".
Flame was later diagnosed with treatment-resistant schizophrenia in July 2019, the jury was told.
Flame and Mr Anderson were close mates when they had a night of heavy partying at an event called "Awful Things" at the Burdekin Hotel in Darlinghurst where one of their friends threw up after taking ecstasy.
Crown prosecutor Gareth Christofi had told the court their group of friends caught an Uber back to a young woman's Queenscliff house when Flame started to hallucinate and Mr Anderson followed him to a small suburban park near Freshwater Beach and said, "I'm not going to leave you".
But instead of realising Mr Anderson was actually trying to help him while he was in a vulnerable state Flame set upon him and savagely beat him to death as shocked onlookers called police and Mr Anderson helplessly tried to defend himself, the court was told.