Article Title:Psychiatrists offer differing views of Ambach
Author or Daily News staff
Published on:1st July 2009 - 10:56 pm
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Story ID:7639
Text:The Auckland High Court The Auckland High Court jury heard from two psychiatric experts today, and each offered differing views of possible reasons for Hungarian tourist Ferdinand Ambach's deadly attack, which followed an evening of drinking during which Ambach says gay Onehunga man Ron Brown made two sexual advances on him. Ambach trial Day 8 First to take the witness stand today was defence witness Dr Ian Goodwin of the Mason Clinic Regional Forensic Psychiatry Service. During his evidence and cross-examination Goodwin said Ambach, 30, has no previous history of psychiatric disturbances, no record of drug use and no sign of delayed development. He says from his close observation of the accused that he is sociable and independent, and of above average intelligence. It was noted that Ambach was facing tax-related charges in Hungary, that he denies any history of mental illness and any use of illicit drugs except occasional cannabis use. Goodwin said Ambach has no perceptual abnormalities in his thought processes and exhibited no stress symptoms other than those relating to his current situation. He said Ambach understood the situation he is in but doesn't understand what happened to him. He said Ambach communicates well despite difficulty with english. In his interview with Goodwin, Ambach told essentially the same story he told the court yesterday, and said that when he heard sirens approaching Brown's home he thought he was safe. Goodwin says Ambach also recalled seeing blood smeared on his police holding cell wall but does not associate it with himself, and said he has no memory of his visit to hospital for treatment of a cut finger. Dr Goodwin said that Ambach's recollections were fragmented and difficult to interpret. Benzodiazepine and alcohol Goodwin noted that after the aggressive attack Ambach had been alternately aggressive, hostile and cooperative but that this pattern had subsided within 48 hours. He acknowledged that no Lorazepam, a prescription benzodiazepine sedative found in Brown's home with one pill missing from the bottle, had been detected in tests, but suggested that a mixture of benzodiazepine and alcohol is "memory impairing." Dr Goodwin said it was difficult to assess the cause of Ambach's rage and violence the night of the attack, but that his fluctuating mental state suggested an intoxicant was involved, not solely alcohol. He said Ambach's reactions were compatible with a benzodiazepine/alcohol mix. The possibility of behaviour stemming from automatism, described as actions carried out without consciously thinking about them, was raised by the defence lawyer. Goodwin said that automatism only occurred in brief episodes: "They don't tend to go on for a long time."  However, Goodwin said he could not exclude a reasonable supposition of automatism. The amount of alcohol Ambach had apparently drunk during the seven and a half hours prior to the attack would not have caused a particularly high level of intoxication, and although it would have been useful to have had a blood alcohol level test result, no such test had been done. Brief mention was also made of  'paradoxical effects," and the example was given of a sedative drug possibly making someone manic. Cross-examined by the crown, Goodwin acknowledged that one pill of Lorazepam constituted a very low dose, that it was poorly soluble in water and even if crushed there would be an evident remainder. The crown also noted that Goodwin had not mentioned automatism in his original report on Ambach: "You didn't think the case for automatism was strong enough to include in your report?" "No," replied Goodwin, "I didn't." The crown further suggested that complex activity such as happened in the house the night of the attack are not consistent with automatism. Selective recollections Professor Mellsop then took the stand as a Crown witness.  He said that Ambach's limited recollections of events were strongly negative to Ronald Brown, and that his recollections of later stages of the event were "quite clear." He noted that Ambach had not explained why he was scared of someone three times his age. "His recollections are very selective," said Mellsop. "The principle areas forgotten relate only to how Ronald Brown got injured.... he always avoided remembering direct violence against Mr. Brown but could remember other areas.... [Ambach] demonstrated an ability to pick and choose what he was going to tell me." Mellsop concluded that Ambach had a low anger threshold, further lowered by alcohol intoxication; that for up to an hour and a half on the night of the attack there had been a major theme to Ambach's actions, namely killing and destroying, and that was "a good point against automatism." Ferdinand Ambach's behaviour, he told the court, was "totally explained by alcohol." Reminded by the defence lawyer of the glowing testimonials provided yesterday by Ambach's friends in Hungary, Mellsop replied: "I attach little importance to self-sought character references and I put value on his evasions." "I am more impressed  by the selectiveness of what he is willing to have as available knowledge...  I was given a very selective account." The trial has been adjourned until Monday morning when counsel for the prosecution and defence will begin their summing up. Daily News staff - 1st July 2009
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