Adenir DeOliveira experienced 'auditory hallucinations' to kill people, judge told


From Saturday's Globe and Mail

February 20, 2009 at 3:54 PM EST

TORONTO Whatever demons may have been lurking inside Adenir DeOliveira's head last week when he allegedly tried to kill three teenaged strangers by shoving them in the path of a subway train, there had been no apparent signs of trouble.

However, at a brief hearing yesterday at Old City Hall, Judge Kathleen Caldwell was told that at the time of the incident, Mr. DeOliveira was experiencing "auditory hallucinations" directing him to kill people.

The 47-year-old was examined Thursday at the Toronto (Don) Jail by Julian Gojer, a psychiatrist, upon whose advice Judge Caldwell ordered Mr. DeOliveira to undergo a 30-day psychiatric assessment at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health on Queen Street West.

There had been occasional hints of instability: A flash of temper, as recalled by a former landlady from Toronto's east side, where he once lived; the use of anti-depressant drugs; an inconsequential police encounter a couple of years ago.

But no one had any inkling that he might have been a ticking bomb. Not the police. Not his neighbours in his run-down, four-storey apartment block. And certainly not his horrified common-law wife, with whom he had been living on and off for six months.

A police source said she was "flabbergasted" by the charges.

"Right now we have no answers as to why he [allegedly] took these actions," said Inspector Bryce Evans of the Toronto police.

The outcome of last Friday's incident could have been far worse. Police allege that as an eastbound subway train roared into Dufferin station, Mr.

DeOliveira, unprovoked, shoved two 14-year-olds and a 15-year-old from behind. One of the three managed to stay on the platform; the other two tumbled on to the tracks. Both escaped serious injury when one rolled under the lip of the platform and pulled in his friend.

Stocky, neatly dressed when arrested, Mr. DeOliveira seemed unremarkable until he was catapulted into notoriety. A childless immigrant from Portugal, he owns and operates a modest lawn-care business and lives in an apartment in a working-class, immigrant-heavy section of west Toronto near Vaughan Road.

He has no criminal record - an unusual background for a man facing multiple counts of attempted murder and assault. And as far as is known, he has never received mental-health care inside an institution.

"He would go to work, come home, cook and go to sleep," said Nurjehan Meghji, who owns an East York townhouse, near Scarborough, where Mr. DeOliveira occupied the basement until about two years ago. He lived alone and paid $600 a month in rent.

"He was a very quiet person, he would only talk if he was being talked to and he never created any problems for me."

Mr. DeOliveira's marriage had recently ended at the time, and he would still visit his ex-wife, Ms. Meghji said. He used his pickup truck to haul materials for his lawn and sprinkler business. Ms. Meghji saw no signs of alcohol or drug abuse.

But her tenant could also be testy, she said. "Once I asked him to clean the snow outside and he became a little temperamental. He said, 'Why are you asking me? There's other people living in the house.' After that, I didn't ask him to do anything."

A few blocks from Eglinton and Victoria Park Avenues, the brick-clad townhouse is in an enclave of mostly Muslim families, with a mosque a short walk away. When Mr. DeOliveira moved to the west end, Ms. Meghji said, he explained that he wanted to be among people from his own background. She said she found nothing strange about that. "Mostly he seemed completely normal."

But at Mr. DeOliveira's first post-arrest court appearance last Saturday, it became plain that he was struggling with some difficulties. Relaying a request, duty counsel Al Hart asked that Mr. DeOliveira be given access to a trio of prescription drugs, all associated with anxiety problems: Effexor, Lorazepam and Seroquel.

Effexor is used to treat depression, while Lorazepam is prescribed for anxiety symptoms and insomnia. Seroquel is an anti-psychotic prescribed to patients with schizophrenia and manic episodes associated with bipolar disorder, and is also used to treat severe anxiety or refractory depression.

"Those three medications wouldn't tend to be [prescribed to] someone with a first episode of depression or anxiety disorder," said Wende Wood, a psychiatric pharmacist at Toronto's Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, stressing that she was speaking in general and not about Mr. DeOliveira's case. "It's not that unusual. I actually have a number of patients on similar combinations."

Mr. DeOliveira was a relative newcomer to the drugs' use. A source familiar with the investigation said that up until about a year ago, when severe depression began to set in, Mr. DeOliveira lived a relatively normal existence.

The drugs he took inhibited his sex drive, the source said, leaving Mr. DeOliveira unsure about continued use. Yet when he went for a medical checkup a couple of weeks before the subway incident, his doctor increased the dosage.

The 30-day NCR (not criminally responsible) assessment ordered yesterday was in response to a request from Mr. DeOliveira's lawyer, Ian Kostman. The lawyer presented a written report to Judge Caldwell, who took several minutes to read it and then agreed to send the accused directly from court to the CAMH building.

He will remain in police custody during the assessment period and return to court March 20.

Mr. DeOliveira, who wore beige pants, a baggy white T-shirt and an expression part blank and part melancholy, asked, through his lawyer, to be placed in protective custody. "He's concerned for his safety," Mr. Kostman said.

Referring to Dr. Gojer's report during yesterday's proceeding, Mr. Kostman said his client experienced auditory hallucinations "while speaking with the doctor and over previous days, telling him to kill people."

Dr. Gojer, Mr. Kostman said, had concluded that Mr. Oliveira was having "an acute psychotic episode," during the subway incident.

With a report from Lisa Priest