true crime

'How my sister became a murderer.'

On a crisp morning, I picked up the phone to hear my mother’s quivering voice on the other end. “It’s Anna,” she sobbed, “she’s killed Johnny!”

Cold shock pulsed through my veins. But as I hurried to gather my things and go to my parents’ side, another emotion bubbled to the surface.

Anger.

Anger at the government; at the woefully inadequate mental health system. At myself for not figuring out a way to have Anna placed in monitored care.

To hear more of Katie’s story, listen to No Filter.

For months, my family and I had been trying desperately to find a residential facility for Anna where she would be safe.

As her dangerous and erratic behaviour had escalated, we had told doctors and nurses and outreach workers that Anna was not fit to be in the community; that she was a danger to herself and others.

We had seen Anna try to stab herself in the guts with the kitchen knife; seen her hold Dad in a choke hold till her gagged and struggled. Listened as she shared her delusional fears of being pursued by organised gangs.

Anna. Image: Supplied.
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It was clear to us that Anna should be under some sort of supervised care. Still, after each admission to the hospital or the psych ward, she was sent back out into the world.

And now Johnny, Anna’s warm, gregarious older housemate, was dead.

Anger didn’t begin to describe it.

Recently, I wrote about our experience with the mental health system, and what I saw as the failings which allowed Anna to be discharged again and again without any follow up monitoring or care.

Since then, hundreds of people have shared similar stories with me on social media. A bereaved daughter writes of her father, who despite “lots of mental health issues”, was “turned away from help multiple times”. Her father went on to murder her mother. An exhausted mother laments the “endless cycle of madness and utter frustration” of trying to care for her angry and combative mentally ill son with “almost no help from the system”.

The Horneshaw/Pershall family. Image: supplied.

Hundreds of people speak of feeling abandoned by the system, of being connected with services which where inadequate or inappropriate for their needs, or of being desperate for respite from the unrelenting work of caring for their severely mentally ill family members.

As we sit in in the waiting room of the women’s prison, we hear these same worries and fears from the parents and siblings of my sister’s fellow prisoners.

Until we do something about the lack of support for families charged with caring for their mentally ill children, Anna’s story is destined to repeat itself.

In this podcast, my mother and I discuss my sister’s journey from weird, funny little girl to killer, and how we think it might have been prevented.

Condolences, from the bottom of my heart, to the family of Zvonimir Petrovski (Johnny).

For the more of Katie's story, listen to No Filter.

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