Third psychiatrist says prostitute was likely unaware in knife attack

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 24 November, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 24 November, 2007, 12:00am

A third psychiatrist has testified that a prostitute who attacked her friend with a fruit knife before trying to strangle and smother her was probably unaware of her actions at the time of the incident.

Dominic Lee Tak-shing, a former professor of social health at Chinese University, told the Court of First Instance he was '90 per cent sure' Zheng Wei-dong, 30, was in a state of automatism when she attacked her friend, surnamed Yang and also 30, on December 15 last year.

Dr Lee's testimony followed evidence given on Thursday by two other psychiatrists who believed Zheng was probably sleepwalking when she stabbed Ms Yang - who also worked as a prostitute in the same Wan Chai building - in the back, tried to slash her throat, strangle and then smother her.

Zheng has maintained she remembers nothing in between Ms Yang turning down a slice of pear and waking up in the room sore all over, with a bleeding hand and her friend running away covered in blood.

Although he could not exclude the possibility of sleepwalking, Dr Lee said it was more likely Zheng was having an epileptic attack at the time.

'She described smelling a novel fragrance, then dizziness and nausea for a second or two before 'passing out',' Dr Lee said. '[These feelings] are consistent with the 'aura' of temporal lobe epilepsy.'

He said auras were experienced by some epileptics during the onset of an attack. Most commonly reported was a strange smell, often likened to burning rubber or pork.

'Epilepsy is an electrical disturbance [in the brain] that would help to explain how one moment she was herself and the next she was a totally different person,' Dr Lee said.

There were several factors that led him to conclude she was not faking the incident.

Dr Lee said it was totally out of character; she had done nothing to conceal her crime; she was apparently quite confused and shocked afterwards; and she seemed to have a depressed level of consciousness following the episode.

Dr Lee also said Zheng had suffered from bouts of sleep paralysis, a condition known in Chinese as 'being pressed by ghosts', where a person is unable to move in the early phase of wakefulness.

The trial continues before Mr Justice Michael McMahon on Monday.