Chinatown triple stabbing suspect ‘calm and cooperative’ on day of attack: report

Click to play video: 'Chinatown festival stabbing report sheds light on suspect’s release'
Chinatown festival stabbing report sheds light on suspect’s release
WATCH: A newly-released B.C. Review Board decision is shedding light on the decision to release a man from custody just hours before he allegedly stabbed three people at the Light Up Chinatown festival in Vancouver last year. Rumina Daya reports. – Mar 13, 2024

The man accused of stabbing three people at a festival in Vancouver’s Chinatown last September appeared “settled, calm and cooperative” the day he was granted an unescorted day pass, according to documents from the BC Review Board.

But Blair Donnelly, who was being housed at the Forensic Psychiatric Hospital, had shown the capacity to slide into violent delusions with little warning in the past, the report found.

Click to play video: 'B.C. stabbing suspect was considered ‘significant threat’: documents'
B.C. stabbing suspect was considered ‘significant threat’: documents

Donnelly has been housed at the facility for a decade and a half after being found not criminally responsible by way of a mental disorder for fatally stabbing his 16-year-old daughter under the belief he was acting on orders from God.

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The report was produced for the review board in December 2023, following his arrest for the Chinatown attacks.

It concludes that he should continue to be held in the facility indefinitely, finding he poses a high risk of unforeseen violence targeting “anyone in his proximity who he incorporates into his delusional beliefs including strangers.”

'Settled, calm and cooperative'

The report notes that in the lead-up to Donlley’s Sept. 10 release on an unescorted day pass, his behaviour had raised no concerns about his mental state.

He had shown no signs of residual paranoid or religious delusions, was taking his medication, had been moved into a lower-risk unit and had been regularly let out of the facility on escorted and unescorted passes.

“On September 10, 2023, the accused was assessed for a day leave at approximately 12:55 pm and presented as settled, calm and cooperative,” the report states.

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“His thoughts appeared goal-directed, reality-based, and he denied perceptual disturbances or any self-harm, suicidal or homicidal ideation.”

But it also noted two prior incidents in which his mental state had deteriorated “abruptly and without apparent warning.”

The first case happened while he was on day leave from the hospital in 2009 and stabbed another former patient after the two had taken cocaine, the report states.

In 2017 he was sent back to the hospital while on another leave over concerns he was becoming preoccupied with religious matters, and subsequently stabbed another patient with a butter knife, the report adds.

During a hearing with the review board in April 2023, six months before the Chinatown attack, the panel noted those previous violent incidents were “not proceeded by warning signs” and that both “came after lengthy periods of remission and without any indications of decompensation.”

Click to play video: 'Man charged in Chinatown festival attack has long history of violence'
Man charged in Chinatown festival attack has long history of violence

After his arrest in the Chinatown attacks and while held at the Fraser Pretrial Centre, the report states Donnelly refused all medications and relapsed into bipolar disorder with evidence of psychotic symptoms.

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It states he allegedly attacked a cellmate at the facility, and upon his return to the Forensic Psychiatric Hospital, was placed in seclusion following conflict with other patients.

His psychiatrist also reported that Donnelly remained preoccupied with biblical the “end of days” and had “limited insight” into his illness, and concluded he was experiencing a manic relapse of bipolar disorder with psychotic symptoms.

“Moving forward, it is very difficult to envisage what further support and intervention could be put in place to safely manage Mr. Donnelly in any other environment than the one he is currently nursed in (a high security setting within the Forensic Psychiatric Hospital),” the psychologist concluded.

Click to play video: 'Significant ruling in Vancouver Chinatown triple stabbing case'
Significant ruling in Vancouver Chinatown triple stabbing case

“At the current time I can not envisage any situation outside of that setting whereby Mr. Donnelly’s mental health and associated risk could be safely managed.”

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The review board ultimately stated it had “no hesitation” in finding Donnelly constitutes a significant threat” to public safety, and ruled he should continue to be held in the hospital without community access, with the potential for a review of his case next December.

Donlley faces three charges of aggravated assault related to the Sept. 10 Chinatown attacks.

Premier David Eby has tapped former Abbotsford police chief Bob Rich to lead a probe into leave privileges granted to patients at the Forensic Psychiatric Hospital, including Donnelly’s case.

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