Courtney Herron’s killer waits for bed at secure mental health hospital

The man who bashed Melbourne woman Courtney Herron to death in a park will remain in prison while he waits for a bed to become available at a secure forensic mental health hospital.

Henry Hammond was last month found not guilty due to mental impairment of the murder of Ms Herron, 25, who was fatally assaulted in Royal Park in the early hours of May 25 last year.

Courtney Herron died at the age of 25.

The Supreme Court heard last month that two psychiatrists believed Hammond was in the midst of a relapse of his schizophrenic illness at the time of the killing, evidence which was accepted by Justice Phillip Priest.

In court on Monday, Justice Priest said he had hoped to impose a custodial supervision order, which would see Mr Hammond held at Thomas Embling Hospital and receive compulsory treatment for his mental health.

However, he said he would have to wait to make the order as there are currently no beds available at the facility.

Dr Mark Ryan, the director of clinical services at Thomas Embling Hospital, told the court he was confident they should be able to get Mr Hammond into the facility within the next six months.

"We always have difficult times in terms of beds and freeing up beds. I think fortunately, probably two years ago, we had a waiting list of eight or nine forensic patients waiting to come to us … they waited for up to two years, I think was the longest," Dr Ryan said.

"We have that number down to two [people] at the moment."

He said the hospital has had difficulty in discharging forensic patients due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"We take very seriously our responsibility to those liable to supervision and get them out of prison as quickly as we can," he said.

Henry Hammond.

"What we hope is once restrictions with COVID reduce we should be able to discharge a few people and prioritise Mr Hammond and the other man for those beds."

Justice Priest adjourned the proceedings to March 17 next year on the understanding that if a place does become available at the hospital before then, the court will reconvene and make the custodial supervision order.

He said that he planned to set the order for a nominal term of 25 years.

Justice Priest also told the court that he was concerned there was a "view propounded in some way that [Mr Hammond] has been let off the hook and is going to be going back into the community."

"I don't know where this idea came from. If people are labouring under that misapprehension, it's completely wrong," he said.

"He won't be back in the community any time soon."

On May 24 last year, Ms Herron gave Mr Hammond a cigarette in the Melbourne CBD and the pair then went to dinner at a Fitzroy restaurant, where cameras captured them in friendly conversation.

She paid for his meal and they went to a friend's apartment and smoked cannabis and ice.

In the early hours of May 25, the pair left the apartment and entered Royal Park about 4.30am.

Hammond picked up a branch and Courtney became scared. Hammond would later tell police her last words were: "Are you going to kill me?"

A witness sleeping in the park said the frenzied attack lasted 50 minutes. He described hearing a woman's screams and her attacker going "hell for leather".

Hammond then tied Courtney's feet together, dragged her into a clearing and covered her with leaves and put a concrete block on her face.

Hammond was arrested on the afternoon of May 26. He initially denied knowing Courtney, but he later told police that he had been walking through Royal Park when he had felt that she had a "treachery towards him and her family", adding that the "trees had dropped sticks for a reason".

He said he "recognised Courtney from a past life" and he had got his revenge on her.

Weeks before the killing, Hammond had been released from jail after successfully appealing a sentence he had received for threatening to kill his ex-partner.

For help in a crisis call 000. If you or anyone you know needs support, you can contact the National Sexual Assault, Domestic and Family Violence Counselling Service on 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732), Lifeline 131 114, or Beyond Blue 1300 224 636.

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