ANU stabbing victims named, decisions before attack probed by ACT

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The decisions of officials within the ACT’s mental health system will be examined as the territory government investigates why accused Australian National University stabber Alex Ophel was able to make his way to the campus before allegedly trying to kill two female students and attacking two men.

Two days after the alleged spree at the prestigious Canberra university, ACT Attorney-General Shane Rattenbury flagged systemic changes could result from a review by the territory’s chief psychiatrist, which was launched following a briefing from police and health officials on Wednesday.

Alex Ophel is accused of attempted murder after two women were stabbed at ANU on Monday afternoon.

“We’re obviously keen to know why this individual was able to make their way to the ANU campus, the decisions that led up to that point, and consider whether the safety provisions that were in place around this individual were met, and if there is any systemic issues that arise from the circumstances involved,” Rattenbury said.

ACT Policing Detective Acting Superintendent Stephanie Leonard said on Tuesday that Ophel was known to police before the incident and mental health is a factor in the police investigation. “The man’s movements and how he came to be at ANU are currently the subject of a police investigation,” she said.

Ophel is in custody until his next court date on October 17, after detectives charged him with two counts of attempted murder, two counts of assault, and one of possessing a knife.

Two 20-year-old women, Ilysha Perry and Isabelle Vasudeva, were hospitalised with stab wounds after Ophel allegedly attacked them between the Chifley Library and Fellows Oval on Monday afternoon. He is alleged to have used a frying pan to assault two men.

Ilysha Perry, 20, is one of two Australian National University students hospitalised with stab wounds.Credit: Facebook

He was arrested by police at the scene shortly after, and the university has ramped up security patrols on the campus in response.

Asked if the incident represented a systemic failure, Rattenbury replied, “no, I think there’s still a considerable distance to go” in examining the circumstances of the alleged attack.

He said decisions made regarding Ophel by “highly qualified” people within the health system needed to be scrutinised.

“These are not decisions that are taken by ministers or by government, they are taken by decision-makers who are charged with this responsibility, and who have significant professional experience to base those decisions on, and that’s why we need to look at this and examine why we saw the circumstances we saw take place,” he said.

ACT Attorney-General Shane Rattenbury says he wants to know why Ophel was able to make his way to the campus.Credit: Alex Ellinghausen

He said people within the mental health system could be under a wide range of supervision arrangements.

“What I can assure the community is if any systemic issues are identified, the government will act quickly to address them. We will have a dedicated team set up within the government to make sure that any necessary reforms are progressed in time.”

Rattenbury said police had told the government there was no indication of a risk to the university before the incident unfolded.

“At this point, we don’t believe there is any ongoing risk to the university,” Rattenbury said.

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