A woman who hit strangers with an axe in a Sydney convenience store will spend at least eight years in prison after her sentence was drastically increased on appeal.
Evie Amati was 24 when she launched an axe attack on unsuspecting customers at a 7-Eleven store in the suburb of Enmore in the early hours of Jan. 7, 2017.
The blows she dealt to Ben Rimmer and Sharon Hacker with a 4.5-pound axe caused the pair serious injuries and were captured in graphic CCTV footage released by the court during the trial.
A third man, Shane Redwood, narrowly avoided getting hit on the street outside by using his backpack as a shield. All three victims were strangers to Amati.
Prosecutors argued at trial that Amati had launched the attack out of rage after coming to believe that a woman she had met on Tinder had rejected her on the basis of her being transgender.
A jury deliberated for two days before finding Amati guilty in August 2018 of wounding Rimmer and causing grievous bodily harm to Hacker with intent to murder them, and of attempting to wound Redwood, also intending to murder him.
In January, Amati was sentenced to nine years in prison with a non-parole period of four years and six months by District Court judge Mark Williams, who presided over the trial.
Prosecutors appealed the sentence, arguing it was manifestly inadequate.
On Monday, the Court of Criminal Appeal agreed with them and added five years, re-sentencing Amati to 14 years with a non-parole period of eight.
Court of Appeal justice Peter Johnson wrote in the decision that the case was “unusual” and described the CCTV footage of the attack as “chilling and confronting”.
He wrote that there was a “powerful” set of subjective circumstances to take into account, and described Amati as “an intelligent person with a troubled history which has given rise to mental health issues and presented her with clear difficulties in her life”.
But, Johnson found, Williams had been “diverted” by these circumstances — and as a result, handed down a sentence that did not properly reflect the seriousness of Amati's crimes.
“She armed herself with an axe and a knife,” Johnson wrote. “This is not a case of violence by way of assaults or even more serious non-homicidal attacks. She came upon two complete strangers in the convenience store and made concerted efforts to kill each of them with that being her intention.”
“In reality, the aggregate sentence did not recognise in any real way the harm done to Ms Hacker and Mr Redwood who were victims of these serious crimes.”
The decision also outlined the “substantial” impact of the attack on Rimmer and Hacker, who suffer ongoing physical and psychological difficulties.
The blow to Rimmer’s head cut open his face and fractured his eye socket and nasal and cheek bones. The base of Hacker’s skull was shattered into multiple fragments.
The three-week trial in 2018 traversed several issues: gender dysphoria; mental illness and psychosis; and the effect had on Amati by a complex combination of seven different substances in her blood at the time of the attack, including alcohol, cannabis, amphetamines, antidepressants, and hormone medication.
Crown prosecutor Daniel McMahon told the jury that Amati had acted out of a “deep-seated anger with the world”, connected to her feelings of rejection and discrimination for being transgender.
He said Amati had lied on the stand about experiencing psychotic symptoms that night, including hearing voices and feeling her vision narrow.
“Was she experiencing any of those things at all, or was it plain old anger?” McMahon asked the jury.
He also said her intent to kill was clear in messages about killing people she sent to her Tinder date and in a Facebook status posted just 25 minutes before the attack.
He read the post out to the court, noting its perfect grammar: “Humans are only able to destroy, to hate. So that is what I shall do.”
Defence barrister Charles Waterstreet argued Amati was not guilty by reason of mental illness.
Amati testified at trial that she could not remember the attack, and when she found out what she had done, it was “the worst day of my life”.
She told the court her last memory of that night was of sitting on her balcony smoking cannabis and crying, before a voice in her head started telling her to kill people and a “sinister smile” was plastered across her face that she couldn’t control.
Amati will first be eligible for release on parole on Jan. 6, 2025.