Doctor found guilty of attempting to murder pharmacist

The pharmacist survived the violent attack of the “single-minded and determined” doctor with some help from an “extremely brave” customer

Adelaide GP Brian Holder, 69, has been found guilty of attempted murder of Port Lincoln pharmacist Kelly Akehurst on 10 October 2017.

The Supreme Court of South Australia heard that Mr Holder had gone to the Terry White pharmacy where Ms Akehurst worked, lured the 28-year-old out from behind the counter with a bunch of flowers and then tried to stab her with a 15-centimetre fishing knife.

Contrary to Mr Holder’s defence that he had no intention of using the knife against Ms Akehurst, Judge Ann Vanstone of the Supreme Court of South Australia was satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that the accused had gone to the pharmacy with the intention of killing the victim.

At the time of the conduct, Mr Holder was a general practitioner at a medical centre in Morphett Vale, south of Adelaide.

In May 2017, Ms Akehurst reported Mr Holder to AHPRA after she noticed he had written scripts for several different individuals for high quantities of diazepam, oxazepam and panadeine forte.

Court documents reveal Ms Akehurst was told by AHPRA that if she was prepared for her name to be disclosed with her report, the referral would be expedited and “carry more weight”.

Accordingly, Mrs Akehurst authorised release of her name.

Following the notification and an AHPRA investigation, the Medical Board of Australia decided to place conditions on Mr Holder’s registration relating to his ability to prescribe Schedule 4 medicines.

Justice Vanstone heard that Mr Holder then travelled to Port Lincoln to confront Ms Akehurst.

Before leaving Adelaide, it was found that Mr Holder had purchased the knife, printed two suicide notes – including one containing an instruction to his wife and daughter not to communicate with the media – and ascertained Ms Akehurst’s home address through a private investigator.

However he admitted to the court that he had decided to attend her work address as it was “much closer” than her home address.

After turning up at the pharmacy, the court found the doctor had lured the pharmacist out from the safety of the dispensary using a bouquet of flowers.

CCTV footage showed that he then attempted to stab Mrs Akehurst, with the prosecutor describing the action as aimed “toward her chest, very much in the direction of her heart”.

The court heard the victim sustained deep lacerations to her arm, hand and thumb while defending herself in the struggle that ensued.

Justice Vanstone found that Ms Akehurst was “plainly younger and stronger” and was able to hold back Mr Holder’s right arm, which held the knife, while an “extremely brave” customer took hold of his belt and pulled on it.

The victim then managed to break free, while Mr Holder fled to the carpark and drove away.

Mr Holder had then attempted to commit suicide in his hotel room, however was found by police and taken to Royal Adelaide Hospital for treatment.

While Mr Holder attempted to explain his actions before the court—saying that he had only intended to make the pharmacist “feel a little bit guilty” and wave the knife around but not to kill her—Justice Vanstone found the doctor had “performed acts of violence towards [the pharmacist]… which were both voluntary and deliberate”.

“I was unimpressed with the accused’s evidence. In his dealings with AHPRA, the accused showed himself to be prepared to lie to advance his own interests,” found the judge.

“He admitted that in advising AHPRA, in writing, that he was deeply embarrassed by his actions and that they were out of character with his normal prescribing, he was untruthful. Even now, he seems to consider that his prescribing was appropriate. He was not embarrassed by it,” she said.

“I considered his explanations for his conduct leading up to 10 October to be implausible, and his account of the event itself to be contradicted by the CCTV footage.

“That shows violent and repeated strikes at [the pharmacist’s] body with the knife … it demonstrates that the accused was singleminded and determined.

“I am satisfied that the accused formed a profound resentment towards [Ms Akehurst] and carefully formulated a plan over a period of a couple of weeks to attack and kill her with the lethal weapon purchased, I find, solely for that purpose.”

Mr Holder was found guilty of attempted murder.

He has been sentenced to 15 years’ jail with a non-parole period of 10 years.

The prosecution did not accept Mr Holder’s guilty plea to the lesser charge of attempted aggravated assault causing serious harm with intent.

Readers who are distressed can contact the Pharmacists’ Support Service on 1300 244 910.

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  1. Debbie Rigby

    Kelly, if you are reading this story, I really hope you are ok. It’s a terrible thing to happen to you when all you did was the right thing to ensure patient safety. I’m sure all pharmacists are feeling for you. Take care.

    • United we stand

      And let us know if we can be of any help. We can even start up a Gofundme page for you. Wishing you a speedy recovery.

      Many of us are still flabbergasted at the level of disregard shown by AHPRA by putting the life of such an ethical person in danger.

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