Woman who stabbed Wellington woman Heidi Pryor to death found not guilty by reason of insanity

A woman has been found not guilty by reason of insanity, for the murder of Wellington woman Heidi Pryor.

Justice Simon France issued the verdict in the High Court at Wellington on Thursday after he deemed her fit to stand trial.

The accused, 38, pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, after which the court heard evidence from two forensic psychiatrists as to whether she met the test for insanity at the time she killed Pryor at a house in the Wellington suburb of Strathmore Park on May 6.

Justice France said that, upon reviewing the evidence, he was satisfied the accused was physically responsible for Pryor's death, meeting the criminal standard beyond reasonable doubt.

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However, he said: "I find [the accused] not guilty of the murder of Ms Pryor," he said. "She was insane at the time of the murder ... hers was a very disturbed mind."

He detained the accused as special patient.

He declined to permanently suppress her name, but kept name suppression in place until December 16 to allow her time to appeal against it being lifted.

It was revealed in court that the woman, who was a friend of Pryor, stabbed her multiple times with a large knife, severing vital arteries, and that she believed she was communicating with a guardian angel at the time. 

On the night of the killing, the two women were together at the Strathmore Park house and Pryor became concerned about the accused's behaviour.

She was putting a chair by a bean bag with the intention of falling back into the bean bag, France said.

Pryor told her she would contact the parents of the accused to help. The accused then became alarmed and stabbed Pryor multiple times with a large knife.

Two wounds to the chest area severed vital arteries and Pryor died as a result, France said.

The accused then called 111 and said she had stabbed a girl and she was not OK.

France said the accused thought she was receiving instructions from a higher power and that Pryor's death would save the world and make her a martyr.

Psychiatrist Justin Barry-Walsh, who interviewed the accused in July and had reviewed police records and witness statements, said she was "seriously ill" at the time of the offending.

She believed she was communicating with a guardian angel, he said.

"At the time she considered her actions were morally justified."

Fellow psychiatrist Phillip Brinded, who interviewed the accused at Kenepuru Hospital in August, said the accused had a psychotic episode 12 months before the attack on Pryor.

At that time of the killing, it was clear she was recovering from a psychotic episode, he said.

"[The accused] seemed to lose all insight of the fact she was becoming unwell ... she did suffer from a mental disorder that would satisfy the court as a disease of the mind."

The accused was unable to know moral wrongdoing of her actions, Brinded said. He described the result as "a catastrophe".

For the safety of the public, Brinded said the accused should be made a "special patient", which would come with extra safeguards, such as ministerial approval for discharge.

Under questioning from the accused's lawyer, Chris Tennet, Brinded agreed she was "compliant and sensible" when taking her medication, and was not a substance abuser.


Pryor's family previously described her as a loving person who "didn't have a bad bone in her body".

She was born and raised in Australia before shifting to Wellington about a decade ago. She worked as a project manager and her greatest passions were family, friends and mountain-biking, according to her relatives.

Pryor met her future husband through their mutual love of mountain-biking. They were married in February this year, at Wellington's Botanic Gardens.

"It was one of those beautiful Wellington days with blue sky and no hint of a breeze," her husband said in a statement earlier this year 

Her mother added: "Everyone, without exception, remarked about how happy she was on that day. It was where she wanted to be.

 - Stuff