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Police at the scene where two people were stabbed to death in Epsom. Video / Supplied / Alex Burton
A man suffering from schizophrenia who stabbed to death Epsom couple Herman and Elizabeth Bangera during a psychotic episode can now be identified as their son, Sheal Herman Bangera, following a Court of Appeal decision released today.
Both prosecutors and the defence agreed in March, after reviewing two psychological reports, that the couple’s son should be found not guilty by reason of insanity. As a result, he was ordered in June to stay indefinitely at a lockdown psychiatric facility.
Defence lawyer Shane Cassidy sought permanent name suppression for his client, suggesting that revealing his name could set back his rehabilitation, especially once he is eventually released back into the community, and amount to “public shaming” for a mental health condition he did not choose to have.
Justice Neil Campbell denied the request following the June hearing in the High Court at Auckland, but interim name suppression remained in place while his decision was challenged with the Court of Appeal. That court has now dismissed the appeal.
Police found Herman and Elizabeth Bangera critically hurt at their Epsom home on March 19, 2021, alongside a friend who they had been trying to protect.
Sheal Bangera told psychologists he started hearing two voices on the morning of the attack, which he interpreted as coming from God and Satan.
“Satan’s voice told [him] that love existed; God’s voice told him it did not,” Justice Campbell wrote in his June judgment, citing a report from one of the psychologists.
The patient said he thought the family friend, who he initially attacked, was the “materialisation of Satan” and was controlling his parents.
Armed with a large kitchen knife, he lunged at the man and the two fell to the ground. The first victim was able to grab the knife, suffering cuts to his hand as Herman and Elizabeth Bangera ran over to intervene.
The initial victim was able to retreat inside the Bangeras’ home, but the knife was then used to attack both of them, court documents state.
“[The friend] called 111 and spoke to the ambulance operator. Meanwhile, Herman moved into the hallway where Elizabeth lay. He too collapsed and died of blood loss. Outside, Mr [Sheal] Bangera sat on the ground and stabbed himself in the abdomen and chest.”
Two neighbours of the couple saw the man stabbing himself and tended to him.
“He said he felt compelled to kill himself to prove that love existed,” a psychologist reported. “He expressed a belief that the events of that morning were being monitored or broadcast.”
Herman Bangera, 60, had been a volunteer at Child Evangelism Fellowship. Organisation director Pamela Brooking described him last year as a “lovely man and wonderful dad”. His family, she said, was the “epitome of what family is”.
The couple moved into their Epsom flat around 2007, after immigrating to New Zealand from India, because of the school zone there, a neighbour and friend of the couple previously told the Herald.
Elizabeth Bangera, 55, worked at the University of Auckland, where she had been described as a “highly respected colleague and friend”.
In his June decision, Justice Campbell agreed that the publication of Sheal Bangera’s name could result in hardship but he disagreed it would amount to “extreme hardship”. Even if there was found to be extreme hardship, Campbell said he was disinclined to grant permanent suppression due to the principle of open justice.
“For Mr Bangera to reintegrate into society, he must come to terms not
only with what happened but also that others will know what happened,” Campbell wrote.
Sheal Bangera’s lawyer argued to the Court of Appeal that Justice Campbell erred in his assessment that publication wouldn’t amount to extreme hardship.
But the Court of Appeal sided with Campbell both about the level of hardship and the interest of open justice.
“The principle of open justice is fundamental to our constitution,” the court wrote in its judgement. “The more serious the events dealt with by a court, the greater the interest of the public in knowing who was associated with those events.
“Mr Bangera killed his parents and tried to kill a family friend. He did that while he was insane and he is not morally culpable — or criminally culpable. But the public has a real interest in knowing that he committed those actions, and is being treated for his mental illness.
“Eventually Mr Bangera will be released into the community. His background should not be concealed from those who will have close, and even intimate, contact with him.”