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Defendant "adolescent, naive, dissociated"

Thu 14 Apr 2016 In: New Zealand Daily News

Ihaia Gillman-Harris A forensic psychiatrist who worked with Leonard Nattrass-Bergquist following the death of a gay man in an Epsom motel has this morning explained how she frequently observed him in a dissociated mental state, particularly in the earlier of 24 hour-long sessions she conducted with him. Nattrass-Bergquist and Beauen Wallace-Loretz, both 17 at the time of the altercation after which Ihaia Gillman-Harris, 54, died, are both on trial for the older man's death, charged with murder. The psychiatrist said she was brought in during the police investigation to address with the accused specifically the events which happened in the motel room. She had not been required to address the text message exchanges the crown says show the accused were planning to rob and attack a man described by Nattrass-Bergquist in the texts as a “gay c**t”. She assessed him to be an adolescent rather than showing adult maturity. When the defense asked: “Are we dealing with an adult here?” she responded: “No. He's an adolescent, a teenager.” She said during his sessions with her he was exhibiting symptoms of a stress disorder indirectly connected with circumstances at the time of his parents separation during his childhood. The psychiatrist explained that apparent gaps in his memory of what happened before, during and after the motel incident in December 2014 were consistent with a dissociative state brought on by stress. Nattrass-Bergquist has frequently responded to questioning in court that he does not clearly recall events relating particularly to the period of the attack and its aftermath. She said a dissociative or dream-like state can occur when a person's brain is unable to process a flood of inputs. “Dissociation can occur when people are unable to process emotional content... you can be dissociated for a period and not know it... feeling like you are out of your body, unreal, like a movie.” She said people can still function in this state, able to do things like drive a vehicle or buy things at a shop. The state can be a one-off or happen frequently, and can last for seconds or even hours, she said. A long-time friend of Nattrass-Bergquist's family, a secondary school teacher of 35 years experience, described the defendant as naive for his age, pleasant, friendly and mild-mannered. He had been “a good ice hockey player, travelling twice overseas,” and an extremely willing and able worker on home gardening and fencing projects he had assisted her with. Asked by the crown prosecutor to compare her view of him with the texts he had sent to Wallace-Loretz in which the crown says the pair were planning to attack and rob Gillman-Harris, the family friend replied: “I see that as bravado, disappointing and bad but knowing what I know of him it is bravado... completely out of character.” She advised the court that she had observed Nattrass-Bergquist to be stressed at an early age due to a bitter custody dispute in which his father tried, unsuccessfully, to gain full custody, something he did not want.    

Credit: GayNZ.com Daily News staff

First published: Thursday, 14th April 2016 - 1:52pm

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