By Amy McQuire, March 18 2013, Tracker Magazine.
NEW SOUTH WALES: It was two weeks before Christmas 2005 when a cleaner at Taronga Western Plains Zoo came across a male intruder in the laundry.
The open range zoo is one of the star attractions of the central New South Wales town of Dubbo, where visitors can view zebras and giraffes walking in wide open spaces, free of the confines of cages.
It’s the reason the town is on the map, or at least it was the reason.
Earlier in the month – from late November to early December – another staff member staying at the guest house within the grounds of the zoo noticed that the house was often disturbed after he had left it locked, items of food were missing and on occasion he had heard noises coming from the roof.
It was days later, on December 14, that the cleaner had encountered the stranger in the laundry. He was holding a clock radio and he smelt. She later told police he looked like he hadn’t showered in months.
He was helpful, directed her to the fan she wanted to retrieve, and then handed her a towel.
When the police spoke to the cleaner after the incident, they showed her a picture of a man they were looking for. She agreed the intruder was very similar to the man in the photograph. Although his face was now thinner, she said his eyes were the same.
That man was Malcolm John Naden – who had gone on the run five months prior from a house a short five minutes drive up the road, where he had left the body of Kristy Scholes – a devoted Aboriginal mother of two – in his room.
Six months before Ms Scholes was found murdered, Naden’s cousin Lateesha Nolan had also disappeared from the front of the same house. Her devastated family had no idea where to turn, until the death of Ms Scholes put Naden at the top of the suspect list.
Naden had stayed at the zoo for a fortnight.
“Food wise I was just scavaging through the bins… just anywhere I could get food. There was a house I stayed at inside the zoo… I lived in the roof while I stayed there and through the day I’d come down and get any scraps that was about. I had a little hole dug outside the zoo and I lived in there until I moved into the zoo,” he later told police.
When police shut down the zoo, the eyes of the world descended on Dubbo, and for a short while, Malcolm Naden was in the headlines – his eyes staring out from one of only two photos he hadn’t destroyed – a police mug shot.
The rest of the story is a seven year long sojourn where police hunted for Naden across the state – finally capturing him in an escalated operation after he shot and wounded one of their own. They cornered him in a property near Gloucester in the midst of the rugged Barrington Tops, bringing him down with the help of police dog Chuck. And Malcolm Naden was suddenly in the spotlight again.
Naden has been many things during his stint on the run.
He has been the mythical bush figure noted for an innate survival instinct. A bounty offered for his capture threatened to place him alongside Ned Kelly in the annals of the state’s history.
He has been the subject of both fear and fascination.
But finally another picture of Naden is emerging, through his appearances in Sydney’s Supreme Court.
In April this year, Naden pleaded guilty to a multitude of charges – including the murders of Lateesha and Kristy, a sexually aggravated assault on a minor, the shooting with intent to kill of a police officer along with a string of break and enter charges. He has appeared in court on three other occasions from April to May, where the hearings slowly started filling in gaps in his story.
At all the hearings, Naden appeared flanked by police guards – on one occasion as many as six. He appeared slightly fidgety with a blank expression on his gaunt face, save for a very rare smile at his defense team. His prison-issued dark green shirt hung off his skinny frame.
The court heard he likes his solitude.
But he was hardly alone. For the majority of his appearances, the public gallery was full, occupying the members of his victims’ family members, the police officers who helped hunt him down (including the cop he shot and wounded) and a continual press pack.
The family of Kristy Scholes was a constant presence – some members travelled from the mid north coast by the week to hear the arduous evidence of their niece’s final hours.
They have also had to hear the Crown Prosecutor Mark Tedeschi QC and Public Defender Mark Ierace SC argue over the state of Malcolm Naden’s mind, about whether Mr Naden had a mild or severe form of depression and whether he demonstrated remorse for his actions.
The court heard the testimony of two forensic psychiatrists who examined Naden.
Dr David Greenburg examined Naden over four occasions for the prosecution.
He found that Naden had a schizoid personality, a mild form of chronic depression that was longstanding and demonstrated psychopathic traits, although he didn’t go as far to diagnose him as a psychopath.
He said while it was difficult to assess, Naden was certainly not of below average intelligence, and wrote better than he spoke.
Naden had confessed a lot of detail about the murders of Lateesha and Kristy in a 25-page document written to police, answering a series of questions only two weeks following his capture.
Dr Greenburg told the court it was his view Naden had pleaded guilty because of what he believed was the “inevitability of the trial”.
He believed Naden was in the highest risk category for violence. He had a compulsion to kill at a young age, having fantasies of murder at age 12.
Naden had always been a loner, from his school days to the time he lived with his grandparents. He never had close friends and he had become more socially withdrawn in the years leading up to the murders. There were indicators of child abuse in his past and he had shown signs of depression at a young age.
He found killing to be “easy for him” and told Dr Greenburg he “had killed before (and) he would kill again”.
It was later revealed in another hearing that Naden had threatened staff at the prison and had smuggled a razor into his cell, with the aim of killing staff, including a psychiatrist.
Naden also made several troubling admissions to Dr Greenburg, claiming that he had committed three other murders. He had told Dr Greenbug he was a serial killer but had then later retracted that statement, laughing and saying he was a liar.
“In my reading there was almost joy or delight in telling his story,” Dr Greenburg said.
“There was a superficiality or glibness to his account… I don’t get a sense of remorse or a feeling of responsibility
from the 25 page document.”
According to Dr Greenburg, Naden saw killing as strength and as an achievement.
“For me it is (an achievement),” Dr Greenburg quoted him as saying.
“Other people struggle… I’m not a sheep. I don’t like to follow.”
Dr Greenburg believed Naden’s depression stems from his contact with people. He said Naden had become depressed in prison not because of what what he had done, but “mainly how it effected him”.
Naden “sees society as the problem… not himself”, Dr Greenburg said. The distress came from interaction with people.
“By avoiding them he avoids that distressed feeling.”
Dr Greenburg said Naden knows killing was wrong legally, but in a moral sense, “he doesn’t think it is wrong”.
Dr Greenburg did not believe that if Naden has a mental illness, it was a significant factor in the two murders.
“Because of (Naden’s) dishonesty, one doesn’t know whether he’s telling the truth or not”.
The court also heard the differing opinion of another forensic psychiatrist – Dr Bruce Westmore – who examined Mr Naden on behalf of the defense.
Mr Westmore told the court that Mr Naden was still an “enigma” and his severe form of depression clouded any true assessment of his “extremely complex” personality.
There was an obligation to treat the depression before he could make any definitive conclusion about Naden’s personality.
Dr Westmore believed Naden interacted with Dr Greenburg in a “different way”.
“I can’t fully understand that,” he said.
Naden was quite intent on wanting to plead guilty and felt anxious at his team’s attempts to defend him, he said.
The prosecution put one statement to Dr Westmore in which Naden had stated he “didn’t feel anything”, he “didn’t feel
I’ve done anything wrong” and “death accepts everything. They were meant to die and I was meant to kill them”.
Mr Tedeschi asked whether that was consistent with Naden’s psychopathic tendencies.
Dr Westmore said the “statement is part of the enigma of Mr Naden.”
He said Naden’s psychopathic statements were concerns as well as his stated lack of empathy and remorse.
He agreed Naden had demonstrated glibness when speaking to Dr Greenburg but he didn’t agree Naden exhibited a grandiose sense of self worth.
He didn’t believe psychiatrists should rush in to diagnose Naden’s personality because of the complexity and the depression clouding it.
Naden had no long-term goals apart from staying in prison, Dr Westmore said.
When questioned by the defense, he said “(Naden’s) wish to stay in prison forever may reflect some responsibility but that’s complex.”
Dr Westmore does not agree he could lead to a conclusion that Naden was psychopathic but that there were concerns.
He believes anger was driving a lot of Naden’s statements to Dr Greenburg about killing another person, rather than depression. He said there were links between anger and depression, particularly in men.
Dr Westmore also said Naden’s statements about killing again should be treated seriously, and that while risk is extremely high to himself and others there were too many variables to determine the future risk.
On the last day of hearings, an insight was given into Naden’s time in prison, and the deterioration in his mental state while behind bars.
The court heard he had been burning his face with cigarette stubs and attempting to cut his face with a razor blade. He had become aggressive because of increased contact with people and had made threats inmates and staff.
The court heard Naden had made it clear he wanted no visitors, even his family, and said he enjoyed the solitude of his cell.
When an old friend had requested to speak to Naden on the phone, he had recoiled and said “no”.
The prosecution submitted that Naden should receive life in prison, stating that the murders should be placed in the worst case category because of the aggravating factors.
This was based on the multiple murders, Naden’s lack of rational, the defilement of the bodies after death, the lack of trust and the substantial suffering and harm involved in the murder of Lateesha.
Mr Tedeshi said that the fact Naden had entered a guilty plea early, within two weeks of being caught, was not an indicator of remorse.
The “plea is because of a desire to get the murder over and done with… this court should give discount because of plea,” he told the court.
Mr Tedeshi said the deterioration in Naden’s mental state while in prison were symptoms of his dislike for social interaction.
Mr Tedeshi called on the judge to accept Dr Greenburg’s diagnosis that there was no severe depression.
But the defense said the prosecution’s explanation of Naden’s mental state in prison was “too simplistic”.
Mr Ierce said Naden had within five weeks of being caught assisted police in trying to find Lateesha’s remains and had gone to Dubbo to do a walkaround of the site “to help the victim’s family”.
This, he said, was counter to the prosecution’s charge that “he was disinterested in the family of Ms Nolan”.
The defense said Naden had struggled to explain why he had committed the offense and that he had sought to delve deeper to his own state of mind.
He said this was an “unusual case where the offender seeks a life sentence and his council seeks otherwise.”
He said Naden’s statements to Dr Greenburg reflected his “desire to ensure he receives a life sentence” rather than his true feelings.
It has been eight long years since Naden was first sighted Taronga Zoo, living amongst the animals, roaming free.
He will find out on June 14 whether he will spend the rest of his life in another cage – behind the walls of prison.