A mental health patient, who just days after being released from hospital, brutally beat an Auckland man to death, has been sentenced to life imprisonment.

Gabriel Hikari Yad-Elohim was found guilty of murdering Michael David Mulholland by a High Court jury last month.

He was seeking a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity.

Today, in the same Auckland courthouse, the 30-year-old mental health patient was sentenced by Justice Gerard van Bohemen.


The judge said life imprisonment was appropriate notwithstanding Yad-Elohim's mental health issues.

He, however, accepted Yad-Elohim's psychosis had "clouded" the killer's understanding of his actions at the time of the attack.

Justice van Bohemen also said the decision to release Yad-Elohim from a mental health unit just days before the murder warrants considerable external examination.

Gabriel Yad-Elohim appears for sentencing at the High Court in Auckland. Photo / Greg Bowker
Gabriel Yad-Elohim appears for sentencing at the High Court in Auckland. Photo / Greg Bowker

Every psychiatrist who accessed Yad-Elohim said he suffered a disease of the mind at the time of the murder but were at odds over whether he was unaware of the morality of his actions.

Justice van Bohemen imposed a minimum period of imprisonment of 13 years.

When Yad-Elohim was asked if he had anything to say before the court's sentence was imposed on him he said: "I was mentally ill when the incident happened."

Yad-Elohim continued to utter words from the dock.

"There seems to be ongoing, I perceive at least, serious psychotic delusions about what happened and his role in that," defence lawyer Matthew Goodwin said.


Mulholland's body was found in the stairwell at the Western Springs flats where the 69-year-old lived on September 26 last year.

He was killed by Yad-Elohim, a Korean-born man with a history of schizophrenia, who had just three days prior been released from an acute mental health facility.

Mulholland's daughter, who attended every day of the trial, also gave a heartfelt and emotional statement to the court today.

"It is one year since I last spoke to my Dad," she said.

"I have held on tight to those words ever since."

She said the pain she feels on the daily basis as the child of a murder victim is "so intense".

"I saw my Dad's body and remember thinking it wasn't him because he was so disfigured ... They weren't able to embalm him properly," she said.

The trial, she continued, was the most painful experience she had endured.

Seeing and hearing how her father brutally died was heartbreaking.

Goodwin said his client's chronic delusions still persist.

"This is not an easy case to be handling," he told the court.

"There are troubling signs that we are not out of the woods."

He said if Yad-Elohim was to be transferred into the prison population the level of medical care he needs could not be maintained.

Gabriel Yad-Elohim, pictured on day one of his trial. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Gabriel Yad-Elohim, pictured on day one of his trial. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Crown prosecutor Kirsten Lummis told the jury several times Mulholland's death came as a result of a "drug deal gone wrong".

She said Yad-Elohim, who identifies as Japanese, had been trying to buy some meth.
The Crown's case against Yad-Elohim was even more unusual because CCTV had filmed Yad-Elohim's entire assault on Mulholland.

The pensioner was dragged from the front door of his flat after a brief verbal altercation and attacked viciously in the stairwell for about five or six minutes.

The footage, seen by the Herald, was played to the jury multiple times during the trial but has been suppressed from public release by Justice van Bohemen.

It shows Mulholland was quickly rendered unconscious after suffering multiple blows to his head.

Yad-Elohim then left the scene and was arrested in central Auckland the next day.

However, Annabel Cresswell, who led Yad-Elohim's defence, said her client was legally insane at the time of the attack.

The court heard Yad-Elohim was hearing voices, seeing ghosts, and believed he was a Japanese anime character.

At the end of his police interview the murderer can also be seen "maniacally laughing" to himself.

Yad-Elohim had also changed his name from Yuuki Watanabe to his Hebrew name, which translated means "hand or messenger of God".

Much of the defence focused on Yad-Elohim's time as a patient at Auckland District Health Board's acute mental health unit, Te Whetu Tawera.

The Herald earlier revealed Yad-Elohim had been released from its care only days before the murder.

The decision warrants considerable external examination, Justice van Bohemen said.

Yad-Elohim was discharged from Te Whetu Tawera by Dr Peter (William) McColl, the service clinical director.

"Te Whetu don't appear to want to take any responsibility for that release," Cresswell said during her closing address.

After Mulholland's death, an external review was also conducted on the medical treatment given to Yad-Elohim while he was a patient at Te Whetu Tawera.

However, the findings weren't disclosed to a court or counsel before Yad-Elohim's trial and only came to light during the cross-examination of McColl.

The review showed the medical notes kept on Yad-Elohim were "misleading".