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February 23, 2024

Escaped killer to face court

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Escaped psychiatric patient Trent Jennings has been charged with offences allegedly committed while on day release from Morisset Hospital.

Jennings, who was arrested while sleeping in a black Mercedes 4WD in Byron Bay yesterday, escaped a murder conviction on grounds of mental illness after self-administering a cocktail of recreational drugs before tying up and killing a man in a Sydney park eight years ago.

Jennings has been charged with detaining a person for advantage, robbery and car theft.

It is alleged that Jennings stole the car on 29 December, while on day leave from the hospital, after tying up a man he met on the internet.

Police now admit that a series of bungles led to Jennings not having been detained earlier.

‘Clearly, something has gone wrong,’ assistant police commissioner Mark Murdoch admitted yesterday, when it was revealed that Jennings had been stopped by police for a roadside licence check the day he absconded and was issued with fines but allowed to drive on.

‘We did not know Jennings had committed the offences 24 hours before. We did not know he had absconded from Morisset Hospital. The cops, as I say, are not clairvoyants,’ he told media yesterday.

Police commissioner Andrew Scipione will make recommendations to improve communication between the police and health ministers over such incidents, he said.

Questions remain about why Jennings was allowed to leave the hospital alone and why authorities took three hours to alert police after he didn’t return at his appointed time.

Clinical associate professor at Sydney University, Michael Robertson, told ABC radio yesterday ‘it would be a standard of care that you would need to notify police if there was a patient who was a forensic patient who had absconded,’ he said.

But NSW chief psychiatrist John Allan has defended the length of time it took for Morisset Hospital to notify police Jennings had escaped, saying ‘it’s often important to give people a little bit of leeway’.

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