To try to understand why loner Gareth Giles carried out his ‘‘chilling’’ step-by-step murder plan, Supreme Court Justice Betty King turned to one of Australia’s leading psychiatrists.
The judge asked Emeritus Professor Paul Mullen, a forensic psychiatrist and the clinical director of Forensicare, Victoria's service for mentally ill criminal offenders, to interview 26-year-old Giles after he had been found guilty by a jury of murdering Russell Hammond.
Mr Hammond, 49, was killed on the night of January 5, 2012, at his home in Drysdale, near Geelong, before his body was dumped in an isolated area at Corio and set alight.
Giles, who had known Mr Hammond previously, and his co-accused Christopher Coulter, 20, both blamed each other for Mr Hammond’s murder, claiming they came out of the toilet at Mr Hammond’s home to find the other man strangling him. Giles was jailed for 26 years and Coulter for 25 years.
Professor Mullen found Giles an interesting interview subject.
Giles told him the only two close relationships he had ever had were with a young niece and his dog.
When discussing Giles’ mother, stepfather and siblings, ‘‘he [Giles] does not describe either neglect or abuse. Simply a rather distant interaction, polite rather than affectionate in nature’’, Professor Mullen said in his report tendered to the Supreme Court.
Giles claimed to have been subjected to systematic and violent bullying over many years but never told his family about it, and when he came home with bruises, no one asked him about them.
Giles spent much of his time alone in his bedroom playing computer games or watching DVDs.
Giles said that as long as he could remember, he felt lonely and cut off from the world.
‘‘He said that on occasion, he was overwhelmed by what he called ‘emotional pain’,’’ Professor Mullen’s report said.
‘‘This emotional pain he found difficult to characterise other than a sense of being lost and unable to make contact with the world of others.
‘‘He said, ‘I’ve been lost for most of my life’. His description of his internal world conveyed a sense of bleakness and emptiness.”
Despite Giles’ superior intellectual abilities in some areas, he failed academically and socially at school.
‘‘He appears never to have made the transition from school to either work or further education. Similarly his functioning and interests seem not to have changed much over the last decade. If anything, there is a suggestion of a decline in his functioning.’’
Giles, in recent years, lived the life of a recluse in his bedroom at his mother’s house.
Professor Mullen described how Giles’ considerable psychological and social problems saw him resort to self-harm in the form of cutting his body over many years.
‘‘More dramatic is his sense of being separated from other people and about the possibility of any true connection.
‘‘This is not, he says, based on a sense of superiority to others, nor overt fear of them.
‘‘The isolation he feels stems from an inability to maintain any sense of being able to understand others, or to feel understood by others.’’
‘‘The court may conclude that given Mr Giles is far more intelligent, older and knew the victim that he is more likely to have played the lead role in the killing.
‘‘On the basis of what was found on Mr Giles’ computer they may also consider the killing to have been an acting out of a fantasy or plan. Should this be the situation it would raise concerns about the risk of a recurrence of such violence.’’
Professor Mullen speculated that Giles had been cut off from his own world for so long that ‘‘he lost a sense of the reality and implications of acting on murderous fantasies’’.
‘‘Mr Giles is a highly intelligent man who has never been able to use his abilities effectively either in education or relationships. If he were to find an outlet in real intellectual attainments rather than pseudo-philosophical ruminations, this might make him less alienated from others. If he were to learn to interact with others and value their company this would, in my opinion, reduce any future risk of violence.’’