A deranged man who murdered his girlfriend during a psychotic episode believes she would still be alive if a hospital had not released him two days earlier.
Shea Sturt, 33, was last week jailed for 22 years for killing young nurse Caitlin O’Brien, 31, in their Melbourne home on June 25, 2019.
Before pleading guilty, Sturt sent a series of handwritten letters from prison to a mutual friend describing his drug-induced descent into madness.
Sturt’s letters, obtained by Daily Mail Australia, explain how he was released from The Alfred Hospital after just a few hours of observation, despite him rambling to doctors about his ‘paranoid delusions’.
The letters also detailed how he stabbed Ms O’Brien with scissors, smothered her with a pillow, and tied tracksuit pants around her neck to make sure she would stay dead.
Sturt maintained he had not intended to attack Ms O’Brien until she ‘grabbed scissors and I panicked and made the worst mistake of my life’.
‘Something primal and probably drug affected took over,’ he wrote.
Young nurse Caitlin O’Brien, 31, (pictured) was found dead on June 25, 2019 in her apartment at Gardenvale, in southeast Melbourne
Ms O’Brien, who was recovering from brain surgery, had called police to their flat in upmarket Gardenvale, southern Melbourne, on June 23 when Sturt was having a psychotic episode, and he was taken to hospital by ambulance.
However, he was released just hours later after a mental health assessment and returned home before Ms O’Brien had a chance to flee.
Sturt, now on medication to treat his litany of mental disorders, wrote that if he was kept in hospital against his will and treated, the murder wouldn’t have happened.
‘[Cait] asked me if I was mad because she had just sent me to The Alfred in an ambulance, but they let me go straight away even though I told them about “finding” Satanism,’ he wrote.
‘If they kept me there she would still be alive. I thought I had “fixed” my mental illness because the hospital let me go.’
In other letters, Sturt described his mental state in the lead up to the murder, and his surprise that he was released from hospital so quickly.
‘I began to have paranoid delusions, thinking that Cait was an incarnation of the devil and that I was one of God’s sons,’ he wrote.
Her boyfriend Shea Sturt (pictured) was sentenced to 22 years jail by Victoria’s Supreme Court. Two days before the June 25, 2019, murder he was taken to The Alfred Hospital for a mental health assessment but released after a few hours
Sturt, now on medication to treat his litany of mental disorders, wrote in letters from jail that if he was kept in hospital against his will and treated, the murder wouldn’t have happened
‘Cait was afraid and called the police, they took me to The Alfred Hospital where I told them about the devil stuff and they let me go.
‘I must have been super convincing or something but it reinforced my delusions.’
In another letter he explained: ‘I was convinced that Cait was killing people so I told the ambulance driver not to let them follow me.
‘At the hospital I told them about my revelations around Satanism and they found it reasonable and let me go.’
Instead of being treated with medication that would have prevented his delusions and homicidal impulses, Sturt fell further into psychosis.
‘For these last few days I was completely off the planet, reading into things way too much and must have looked psychotic,’ he wrote.
‘I even bought an apple and made Cait eat it because I thought it would remove her power over me.’
In other letters, Sturt described his mental state in the lead up to the murder, and his surprise that he was released from hospital so easily
About a month before she died the nurse had a brain tumour removed (pictured) but always lived in fear of her violent and increasingly erratic boyfriend
Ms O’Brien remained terrified Sturt would kill her as she didn’t believe he had receive sufficient hospital treatment to not be a danger.
‘Shea’s out of his mind. Having delusions he is Jesus. I’m just scared to be around him. He’s not making sense at all,’ she wrote to a friend.
‘He forced me to eat an apple today so I could be like Adam and Eve and be enlightened.’
Sturt insisted her fears were unfounded. ‘I would never hurt you,’ he told Ms O’Brien in a text on June 24, to which she replied ‘I hope so. I get scared’.
Shea Sturt (pictured), 33, was in a drug-induced psychotic state when he killed 31-year-old Caitlin O’Brien at their Melbourne home in June 2019
‘Of what?’ he asked.
‘Of you murdering me,’ she said.
Sturt explained how his deluded mind had become convinced he was part of a fight between rival factions for control of the world.
He came to believe Ms O’Brien was corrupted by supernatural forces and was part of a plot to destroy humanity.
On the morning of June 25 he was rambling to her about his delusions and decided taking off her pants was the only way to be sure what side she was on.
‘At which point she grabbed her phone and a pair of scissors from the bathroom,’ he wrote.
‘Believing the world was at stake, and that she was in opposition to pure blood humans I turned the weapon on her and began to choke and suffocate her until she was dead.
‘I also had the belief that she was a vampire lasting from a previous psychotic break and that she was killing people. This had been explained to The Alfred in the past.
‘To make sure she didn’t come back to life, I wrapped a cord around her neck, changed my shirt to something without a logo because of the symbology of branding.’
The court heard Sturt also rifled through Ms O’Brien’s wallet and placed a credit card on her chest to signify ‘you don’t owe me anymore’.
‘Then I walked to the city and asked homeless people what I should do. They told me I should grow out my beard like Jesus,’ Sturt continued in his letter.
‘I cried for a bit and then turned myself in to the police.’
Sturt detailed how he stabbed Ms O’Brien with scissors, smothered her with a pillow, and tied tracksuit pants around her neck to make sure she would stay dead
Ms O’Brien remained terrified Sturt would kill her as she didn’t believe he had been treated in hospital enough to not be a danger
The court heard Sturt showered, went into the city and approached police saying: ‘I just killed my girlfriend.’
‘No you didn’t,’ the officers replied before Ms O’Brien’s body was found on her bed.
He told police ‘in that moment, it (the murder) felt like the right thing to do’.
‘I know it sounds horrible. It just felt necessary at the time… like everything was leading up to that,’ he said.
Sturt has since been diagnosed with schizotypal personality disorder, which differs from schizophrenia in that a patient is aware in hindsight that their thoughts were delusional.
This effect was on display in his letters where he was able to recall his psychoses in detail while knowing they were not true.
‘I thought the world was ending and a lot of other dumb s**t. I wrote out pages of delusions to even figure out what went on afterwards,’ he wrote.
‘I truly did feel peace afterwards, even when I thought I was going to be crucified or killed for turning myself in.’
He has also been diagnosed with borderline, antisocial, and narcissistic personality disorders, anxiety, depression, and OCD.
‘I have never gone out of my way to hurt anyone deliberately, I completely isolated myself when I felt myself slipping. I guess I didn’t see it coming this time,’ Sturt wrote.
Sturt maintained he did not attack Ms O’Brien until she got scared and ‘grabbed scissors and I panicked and made the worst mistake of my life’
Caitlin O’Brien, 31, messaged a friend on June 24, 2019 saying her boyfriend Shea Dylan Sturt, 33, was having delusions he was Jesus and she was scared to be around him
In the hours before her death Sturt had shared a series of bizarre messages on his Facebook page, revealing he was losing his grasp on reality.
The posts included messages like ‘you can’t rape humanity away,’ ‘Sacrifice is beautiful but only ever for the right reasons,’ and ‘I forgive you’.
He also posted a video of a stand-up routine by Owen Benjamin called ‘How To Be Married and Not Be Murdered’.
Sturt in one of his letters promised ‘on my mother’s life’ that the social media posts were ‘rambling incoherence’ and nothing more.
‘I don’t even remember half of what I posted, and none of it was planned,’ he wrote.
Sturt was profoundly remorseful for what he did, his legal aid lawyer Tim Marsh told the court.
He said Sturt was deeply affected when he read a statement by Ms O’Brien’s mother, who described losing part of her soul when her daughter died.
Sturt accepted he had lost the chance for a normal life and acknowledged he must pay for his actions.
He has participated in numerous prison programs, including a drug and alcohol program, and was working in the laundry.
In the hours before her death Shea Dylan Sturt shared a series of bizarre messages on his Facebook page, revealing he was losing his grasp on reality
Sturt in one of his letters promised ‘on my mother’s life’ that the social media posts were ‘rambling incoherence’ and nothing more. ‘I don’t even remember half of what I posted, and none of it was planned,’ he wrote
Justice Christopher Beale told the Victorian Supreme Court that Sturt was remorseful and this episode was different because of the drug-induced psychosis.
He said the drug use was not an aggravating feature to be factored into sentencing because he was not satisfied that Sturt knew his marijuana use would cause the psychosis.
Sturt told doctors using marijuana was ‘like a cure-all’ and it ‘made me treat Cait better’.
Justice Beale said it wasn’t Sturt’s fault he had a schizo-type disorder, but said there were other ways he could have treated his anxiety.
He found there was a reasonable prospect Sturt could be rehabilitated.
Outside court Caitlin’s sister Martine O’Brien said the family lost two people on that fateful day and she hoped Sturt would get the help he needed.
Sturt will be be eligible for parole after serving 16 years in prison.