Elijah Chase: Melbourne Centrelink stabbing accused to face trial after pleading not guilty

The man accused of stabbing Centrelink worker Joeanne Cassar has told a court he will fight the charges as his lawyers explore a “mental impairment” defence.

Elijah Chase, 35, was arrested in May last year after allegedly leaving Ms Cassar, 55, in a pool of blood at an Airport West branch in Melbourne.

In the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday, he pleaded not guilty to charges of intentionally causing serious injury, recklessly causing serious injury, reckless conduct endangering life, common law assault, and use and possession of a controlled weapon.

After prosecutor Jordan O’Toole laid out the case against Mr Chase, magistrate Abigail Burchill said she was “satisfied” the evidence could support a conviction and ordered him to stand trial in the County Court.

Mr Chase, now sporting a shaved head and beard, appeared calm throughout the three-hour hearing, much of which he spent with his arms crossed and head bowed.

The court was told Ms Cassar was allegedly stabbed in her lower back – missing all internal organs – but suffered from pain, psychological trauma and nerve damage in the months after the incident on May 23.

Clinical forensic physician Jo Ann Parkin said medical evidence suggested Ms Cassar would have “some degree of total personal disability” from the alleged attack.

Throughout her 20-year career with Services Australia, the court was told Ms Cassar had experienced “a number of violent assaults” as a Centrelink team member.

Prosecutors allege Mr Chase was identified as a suspect in the alleged attack by a witness at the branch and was arrested on-board a tram a short time after the alleged incident.

He was allegedly found with blood on his hands and two knives nearby.

Under questioning from his lawyer, Honorah Edwards, Detective Acting Sergeant Dale Eagle confirmed that due to Mr Chase’s behaviour, he held concerns about the possibility he was suffering from possible mental disorders and requested a doctor assess whether he was “fit” to be interviewed.

But after the accused man refused to speak with a doctor, Sergeant Eagle confirmed he interviewed Mr Chase anyway.

Details of the 20-minute interview were not aired in court, but Ms Edwards said her client made a number of “florid” remarks, including bringing up decade-old grievances with Centrelink.

“I think it would be wise to have a lawyer here if there’s a sh-t storm at Centrelink,” he allegedly said.

Ms Edwards flagged the admissibility of the interview would be raised at trial, given Mr Cash had not been given access to a lawyer despite saying he “probably should” when asked if he wanted to.

She also said her client had been assessed by a psychiatrist last week, with a mental impairment defence assessment report due “soon”.

In October, Government Services Minister Bill Shorten said a safety review of Centrelink’s 318 centres across Australia had led to 44 recommendations in the wake of the alleged attack.

Mr Shorten said the government had committed to implement all recommendations, including additional security guards, better IT systems and improving centre designs.

Mr Chase was remanded to appear in the County Court for a directions hearing at a later date. 

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