Driver mentally ill before SA fatal crash

The driver charged over a road crash that killed Joanne Shanahan and another woman was mentally ill.
The driver charged over a road crash that killed Joanne Shanahan and another woman was mentally ill.

An Adelaide man charged over a road crash that killed two people, including a senior South Australian police officer, has been found to be mentally incompetent at the time.

Harrison Kitt came before the South Australian District Court on Thursday where prosecutors conceded he was suffering a psychotic episode in April last year when he drove through an intersection, colliding with two other cars.

He had pleaded not guilty to two counts of causing death by dangerous driving and one count of causing harm.

The court found him not guilty of those charges because of his mental illness.

As a result, he will not face jail time but will be subject to some form of supervision.

Immediately after the decision, Kitt's mother Kathy said the family understood that the decision by the Director of Public Prosecutions would prompt mixed community reactions.

"Some will find it difficult to understand that what occurred can be explained by mental illness," she said.

"We only wish that we had understood some of the warning signs in Harry's behaviour."

Mrs Kitt said not a day had passed since the crash that they did not think about the impact on the families of those who lost their lives.

"Their loss is unimaginable," she said.

"We hope they can find it in their hearts to forgive Harry for what happened even though it might be difficult for them to accept that it was not his fault, but the fault of a terrible and debilitating disorder that none of us knew he had."

The charges against Kitt related to a three-car crash at suburban Urrbrae in April last year which killed Detective Chief Superintendent Joanne Shanahan, 55, and Tania McNeill, 53.

Supt Shanahan was a passenger in a car driven by her husband Peter, a former police detective.

Ms McNeill was driving a second car and Kitt the third vehicle involved.

As part of the allegations against him, Kitt was accused of driving at excessive speed at the time of the crash.

Defence counsel David Edwardson QC had indicated previously that a defence of mental incompetence was to be advanced.

Mr Edwardson said Kitt had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, with manic episodes and psychotic features.

On Thursday, the court ordered further reports in relation to Kitt's ongoing supervision.

He will return to court in November.

Australian Associated Press