Detectives are investigating whether a disgruntled patient may be behind the increasingly violent attacks. Picture: Brad Fleet
Detectives are investigating whether a disgruntled patient may be behind the increasingly violent attacks. Picture: Brad Fleet

Psychiatric clinic attacks spark top-level response

ONE of Adelaide's leading mental health practices is at the centre of a sensitive police investigation after repeated vandalism and death threats made to its psychiatrists.

Detectives are investigating whether a disgruntled former patient is behind the series of escalating, targeted attacks on the southern suburbs facility.

Mounting fears of potential violence has reached the highest levels of the State Government as security is increased around the clinic and at psychiatrists' homes.

The medical clinic, which employs several eminent psychiatrists including senior public sector clinicians, has been targeted with graffiti spray-painted on its building - including phrases such as killer, liars, die and ICAC (a reference to the Independent Commissioner against Corruption).

Staff at the psychiatric clinic, which officials asked not be identified for security reasons, say they are "terrified" of more serious harm after animal parts were dumped on its doorstep and threatening messages left on phones.

 

Graffiti painted on a window at the clinic.
Graffiti painted on a window at the clinic.

 

While attacks began last year, the now weekly threats have escalated to become more violent in nature over the past few weeks, staff said.

SA Police's State Protective Security Branch (SPSB) is investigating due to the serious nature of the threats and the medicos involved, officials said.

Detectives are investigating whether a former middle-aged female patient may be responsible after they saw a clinic psychiatrist - who is also a former senior SA Health clinician - more than a decade ago.

A motive remains a mystery while no arrests have been made.

Police declined to say whether the new Fixated Threat Assessment Centre was being consulted or whether anti-extremist and counter terrorism officers were involved but have ruled out any terror links.

Health Minister Stephen Wade and the state's chief psychiatrist, John Brayley, have been briefed on the incidents, which are occurring more than 15 years after state mental health chief Margaret Tobin was gunned down at her Adelaide office building in October 2002.

 

Don Scott with a photo of his slain wife, SA mental health director Margaret Tobin, who was murdered by deregistered psychiatrist Jean Eric Gassy in 2002.
Don Scott with a photo of his slain wife, SA mental health director Margaret Tobin, who was murdered by deregistered psychiatrist Jean Eric Gassy in 2002.

 

The clinic's owner, a woman aged in her mid-50s who asked not to be named, told The Advertiser how everyone was "frightened" while the clean-up cost is thousands of dollars.

"The behaviour is escalating," said the psychiatrist, who has more than three decades of medical experience.

"It is frightening for the staff and doctors that work here - 100 per cent of patients here are fantastic and everyone is horrified and would like to do something to help.

"The police are taking it very seriously."

The clinic's staff have been involved in some of the state's highest-profile court cases and are frequently asked to see vulnerable patients and criminals at institutions including the secure James Nash House.

Police are also investigating whether an attack on another clinic is linked. Officials there declined to comment.

In a statement, an SA Police spokesman appealed for public information.

"Police were called to a business premises … just after 9am (on Tuesday) after reports of graffiti sprayed in red paint on the front window," he said.

"Police are investigating several other reports of vandalism at the premises, which appear to be targeted attacks.

"SPSB investigators are handling the matter due to the business premises being that of a former senior government official. It is not linked to terrorism or state security."

An SA Health spokeswoman said help was being offered to staff.

"We are providing advice and support to individuals working in the practice due to a potential link between these events and their work in the public system," she said.

Mr Wade condemned the attacks.

"I condemn threats of violence, intimidation or vandalism against any health worker or the health facilities where they operate," he said.

"Our health workers dedicate their lives to helping others and attempts to threaten or intimidate them is abhorrent."

Anyone with information that can assist police is urged to call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

Part of a calf’s heart left at the clinic.
Part of a calf’s heart left at the clinic.


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