ACT News

Nurse says she watched military abandon Hoddle Street killer before massacre

A former Canberra Hospital nurse has claimed she witnessed the army abandon the Hoddle Street killer, Julian Knight, leaving a trained soldier highly unstable months before he went on his shooting spree in Melbourne.

And nurse Kim McKenzie believes the military must learn from its handling of Knight, her former patient, to better deal with soldiers who are bullied and bastardised within its ranks.

Knight was responsible for one of Australia's worst shooting sprees.

In 1987, the year he was kicked out of Duntroon's military college, he took a gun to the Melbourne suburb of Clifton Hill and began firing randomly at innocent men and women.

Seven were killed and another 19 were injured.

Knight, serving life in Victoria, is currently using the ACT courts to allege the Commonwealth was responsible for bastardisation, bashings, and bullying he says he was subjected to while a Duntroon cadet earlier that year.

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He is also seeking compensation as a victim of crime and has also unsuccessfully sought a transfer to the ACT's prison system.

The publicity surrounding the new developments in Knight's case has prompted former Canberra Hospital nurse Kim McKenzie, now working in Darwin, to come forward.

She has told Fairfax Media of what she saw when she was treating Knight in the Canberra Hospital's surgical ward in the months before his shooting rampage.

Knight was in the hospital after a fight between him and other cadets at a Canberra nightclub, said to be a result of bullying. That fight left Knight with extensive injuries, and also saw him stab a Duntroon superior with a pocket knife.

Ms McKenzie said she watched as a military chaplain visited Knight at his hospital bed, telling him he was to be booted out of the army.

She says, despite Knight's obvious instability and mental distress, he was offered no psychological support, counselling, or follow-up from the military.

"The army literally abandoned this highly distraught, very young man, who had a high level of training in the use of weapons and in warfare," she said.

"There's a clear line between all these events and what eventually took place in Hoddle Street."

"I just don't think that the army – now that it's taking a look at itself and issues of bullying and the effects that has on young men -–I just don't think they can stand aside from Julian Knight's story."

"If they don't recognise what occurred, then I suppose it will happen again."

In responding to Ms McKenzie's allegations, the Defence Department simply said it was not appropriate to comment, given Knight's current case in the ACT Supreme Court.

At his sentencing for the massacre, Justice George Hampel described Knight as depressed, "highly stressed" and in an "emotionally fragile state" when he left Duntroon.

The discharge, the judge told Knight, represented "the total collapse and disintegration of your life's ambitions".

Knight is behind bars in Victoria's Port Phillip Prison, but has been appearing via videolink in the ACT court, self-represented.

Knight's lawsuit against the Commonwealth alleges he was assaulted by other cadets on three occasions during instances of bastardisation while at Duntroon.

He says he suffered personal injury as a result of employer negligence and that the government  was responsible through a breach of its duty of care, vicarious liability and negligence.

Ms McKenzie said nursing staff at Canberra Hospital and the police who were guarding Knight during his treatment had become sympathetic and believed him when he spoke of his bullying at Duntroon.

"He appeared to everyone as just a really normal kid, who was bullied, and was put through a deeply emotional situation, was not offered any psychological counselling or any ongoing support, and yet was put back into the community as someone who had only been trained in weapons and warfare," she said.

"I think it's easy to see why he was bullied, he was quite slight build, very blond-haired, softly-spoken, a very polite boy."

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