As he looked over her body, "Connor" thought she was dead.
He didn't know her, had no reason for acting so savagely, but still, he couldn't control what he did. Even though he didn't use the knife to stab the 16-year-old girl repeatedly, it was his fault she was gone, or so he thought.
"What the hell am I doing here?" he had asked himself moments earlier, on "Amy" looking at him from where she lay, severely wounded, on the floor.
And then, in an act carried out with his new friend "Liam", who had knifed Amy, he ordered the house be burnt down to "destroy the evidence".
IN OTHER NEWS:
Connor was the boy from the deeply troubled background, who as a toddler was regularly beaten by his father, who when older yet still a child would phone his mum and plead with her to pick him up from his dad's home.
Liam was the boy raised in a stable home, who knew his parents cared, but who in 2019 slid into heavy cannabis use as he tried to assert his independence.
Both have been in custody since November 11, 2019, the day when Connor, holding a knife in his right hand, pointed at her, put Amy in a choke hold and lightly dragged the blade across her throat. They were arrested just hours after Liam took over the attack by stabbing Amy three times to the abdomen, piercing her liver, as well as inflicting other superficial injuries.
"Chilling" was how District Court Judge Sean Grant described the pair's crimes yesterday. His sentence will have Liam, who was 16 at the time of the attack in the Swan Street house, and Connor, who was closing in on 18, remaining behind bars for close to another two years.
They did what they did in concert, Judge Grant found, shared the same, albeit diminished moral culpability, and so each was handed an aggregate sentence of seven years, to be served in a juvenile detention centre, becoming eligible for parole after three years and six months on May 10, 2023.
That comprised indicative sentences of six years' imprisonment on the charge of cause wounding and grievous bodily harm to a person with intent to murder, and four years for destroy property with intent to danger life.
Liam's descent into his anti-social fog was accompanied by an escalating use of cannabis.
Part of that, he told a NSW Juvenile Justice worker, was down to a tragic incident that saddled him with an enormous sense of guilt. The cannabis use that began in January was triggered by the drowning death of a friend.
As the guilt grew, his smoking escalated, to the point he was doing so several times a day immediately before the attack.
And that, he says, fried his brain, making him lose all sense of reality. His cognitive reasoning disintegrated, within the context of a time where he was trying to prove to his peers he "wasn't a little kid".
A specialist psychologist's report found that while Liam was diagnosed as a child with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and had lower than average intelligence, this wasn't linked to his offending.
It was the trajectory of increasing substance abuse and, in turn, the "unusually" anti-social behaviour that followed.
"His ability to make rational and moral decisions around this time appears to have been temporarily hindered by the impact of substance use on general cognitive function, combined with the influence of others, and his attempt to impress."
In custody he penned a letter of apology to Amy and her mother.
"I am so ashamed of what I did," he wrote, "and I feel so bad, it's truly horrific. "
Ashamed for the lies he told them, equally ashamed for taking their trust for granted, and knowing that everyone wanted to find out how he could have committed such a crime.
"And honestly, I've been asking myself that very same question for 20 months, and I still can't think of an answer."
And so, to Connor. After she looked at him from the floor, his behaviour, he says, "became uncontrolled". He turned, went straight to the kitchen and turned on the cooktop gas jets, as Liam used a cigarette lighter to set aflame a mattress in the bedroom of Amy's mother.
While the gas spread, it was not found to have played any part in the severity of the blaze that destroyed the mother's room and caused limited damage elsewhere.
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Judge Grant found Connor's remorse was genuine, as was that of his accomplice.
"(Connor) felt horrible and conceded that what he had done was horrendous. He became deeply ashamed for his actions, knowing that the victim had trusted him as a visitor, and then betrayed that trust."
Daily cannabis use had been the mainstay for Connor as well, along with occasionally popping ADHD tablets, though has achieved a greater understanding of the dangers from illicit drugs since he's been inside.
That it's a lose-lose gamble.
An underlying autism spectrum disorder and, stemming from his father's abuse, his unstable personality structure and "borderline personality traits" had merged across his young life to create the issues he has with handling every day on getting out of bed.
Where the flashbacks to his father's drinking and violence continually magnified the psychological impact of that abuse; where he had no friends to support him; where he was bullied at school; and where, in his own mother's words, "had such poor insight, and poor planning skills, and was generally immature at the time".
Judge Grant's lengthy decision most eloquently saved special consideration for Amy's horrendous experience in that she gave Liam friendship, yet that was abused, in that she provided a sanctuary to two young offenders, yet "she was repaid with a brutal crime".
Any sentence imposed could never restore Amy's life to what it had been.
"It is impossible to do so. I appreciate the impact that the episode has had on her life. I hope this proceeding does, in some way, bring some sense of resolution to the victim."
- Names have been changed to protect the victim's and offenders' identities
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