‘Witchcraft’: Synai Saliu’s claims before killing partner Anya Ribalkin
A man who fatally stabbed his girlfriend claiming her mother was a witch told a previous partner “I’ll just claim insanity” if his abuse was reported, a court has heard.
Synai Saliu, 38, pleaded not guilty by way of mental impairment in the Supreme Court of Victoria on Friday to the murder of 34-year-old Anya Ribalkin.
The court will decide if Mr Saliu meets a mental illness threshold to be found not guilty of murder.
Three psychiatrists told the court it appeared Mr Saliu was experiencing delusions about black magic and witchcraft.
Psychiatrist Nina Zimmerman told the court it was “likely he had an underlying schizophrenia” and a history of psychotic symptoms at least 18 months prior to the killing.
“I think he’s clearly got a psychotic illness and I think he was clearly psychotic at the time of the offending,” she said.
Mr Saliu stabbed Ms Ribalkin in the neck and chest in their Noble Park home on July 29 last year.
He then drove her car until it ran out of petrol, hailed a taxi and jumped out while the car was moving, and wandering the streets until he was found by police with blood on his clothes.
He called Ms Ribalkin’s mother the morning of the killing, who heard her daughter screaming down the phone line, begging “Synai, stop”.
Police found Ms Ribalkin dead less than an hour later.
Prosecutor Kathryn Hamill alleged to the court Mr Saliu had been abusive in a previous relationship, including threatening to kill the woman, strangling her and pushing her into walls.
Each time he assaulted her, he said he could tell police he was insane, Ms Hamill said.
The woman cut off contact when Mr Saliu told her “he would kill her whole family and make up lies that she was the crazy one”, Ms Hamill said.
Mr Saliu’s relationship with Ms Ribalkin was also violent, the court heard.
They met on dating website Plenty of Fish in August 2017.
The couple lived with Ms Ribalkin’s mother and stepfather until they were kicked out because Mr Saliu refused to contribute to expenses.
They would at times in their relationship smoke synthetic cannabis together, which were periods she said he became “psychotic”.
In January 2018, he was seen by witnesses punching her inside their car.
In the same month, he punched the car’s windscreen and said her mother had caused the damage with witchcraft, the court heard.
On January 21 that year, Ms Ribalkin and Mr Saliu were both made inpatients in hospital after they appeared to be substance-affected and acting bizarrely, both claiming Mr Saliu had supernatural powers, after police were called to a residence by a neighbour.
Mr Saliu called himself a creator and a God, said he had the ability to end people’s lives, and accused his partner and her mother of being witches.
A friend saw bruises on Ms Ribalkin’s face and body when she visited her in hospital.
Three days before Ms Ribalkin died, Mr Saliu told her he had cheated on her and she told a friend she was giving him the cold shoulder.
“She and the accused had an argument about this, and the accused said she was lazy, did not do enough at home, and that she was into witchcraft and was controlling his mind,” Ms Hamill said.
“She indicated she had had enough of the accused and wanted him out of the house.
“Anya said that things had been ‘okay’ when the accused had first returned from (several months in) Sydney, but he had then become violent, and didn’t want her wearing makeup.”
At 9.24am three days later, she was found dead.
Justice Richard Niall will rule if Mr Saliu is not guilty by way of mental impairment at a later date.
Originally published as ‘Witchcraft’: Synai Saliu’s claims before killing partner Anya Ribalkin
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