Deregistered psychiatrist convicted of murder

BMJ 2004; 329 doi: (Published 30 September 2004) Cite this as: BMJ 2004;329:759
  1. Melissa Sweet
  1. Sydney

    A deregistered Sydney psychiatrist, Jean Eric Gassy, faces possible life imprisonment after being found guilty of the murder of a former colleague and senior Australian health official, Dr Margaret Tobin, who was involved in his removal from the medical register.

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    Australian psychiatrist Margaret Tobin was shot dead by Jean Eric Gassy, a former colleague who has now been convicted of her murder


    Dr Tobin was director of mental health services in South Australia at the time of her murder, at the age of 51 years, in October 2002 (BMJ 2002;325: 1056). She was shot four times after returning from lunch to her office in the South Australia Health Department building in central Adelaide. The judge who heard the case, Justice Ann Vanstone, described it as an “execution style” killing in her summing up to the jury.

    Mr Gassy was deregistered in 1997 after a diagnosis of having a delusional disorder and after refusing to comply with conditions placed on his registration. The prosecution proposed that Mr Gassy had harboured feelings of resentment and anger towards Dr Tobin for her part in his deregistration. In 1994, when director of mental health for the Southern Sydney Area Health Service, she wrote to the New South Wales Medical Board requesting an evaluation of Mr Gassy, who had been on sick leave for some months from the hospital where he was employed.

    The prosecution argued that Mr Gassy's belief that he had a reduced life expectancy led him to act against Dr Tobin when he did. He hired a car in Sydney and made the two day drive to Adelaide under an assumed name.

    It was alleged that Mr Gassy also held sinister intentions towards other prominent doctors involved in his deregistration. A list that had identifying details of several of these doctors, including photographs, personal characteristics, and addresses, was found at his home.

    Mr Gassy, aged 48, represented himself because he wanted to demonstrate his lucidity to the jury. He maintained that he had not, and did not, have a delusional disorder, citing his success in undertaking further studies since his arrest in November 2002.

    In her summing up Justice Vanstone told the jury that Mr Gassy had, in many respects, represented himself with great skill. He had argued that he had been the victim of mistaken identity and of “the political abuse of psychiatry.” He said that he was such a good shot that he would have achieved a more accurate placement of the bullets if he had been the marksman.

    Mr Gassy also accused prison and health authorities of denying him treatment for HIV infection. He maintained that he had AIDS, despite several negative results of HIV tests.

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