Neurosurgeon Michael Wong, seven months after the attack at the Western Hospital. 
Photo: Patrick Scala

The Age: Magistrate frustrated by delay in ‘straightforward, tragic’ neurosurgeon attempted murder case

A magistrate has questioned how a man accused of attempting to murder neurosurgeon Dr Michael Wong at the Western Hospital in Footscray could contest the charges.

“It’s a very straightforward and tragic case,” Magistrate Charlie Rozencwajg said on Wednesday.

Mr Rozencwajg was discussing the case of Kareem al-Salam, 43, of Sunshine, who appeared briefly in the Melbourne Magistrates Court via videolink from Thomas Embling Hospital, the state’s only secure mental health centre to treat mentally ill people.

Mr al-Salam allegedly repeatedly stabbed Dr Wong during an attack in the Western Hospital’s main entrance at about 8.30am on February 28 as the neurosurgeon arrived for work.

He has been charged with attempted murder, intentionally causing serious injury in circumstances of gross violence and recklessly causing serious injury.

Victoria Legal Aid lawyer Carrie O’Shea told the court she needed to get preliminary instructions from Mr al-Salam, who required an Iraqi interpreter during Wednesday’s brief hearing, about a possible defence involving the issue of mental impairment.

Ms O’Shea said she had only taken over the case last week after Mr al-Salam had requested new lawyers.

Mr Rozencwajg said Mr al-Salam’s case had been delayed for too long as it made its way through the court system.

“Is he going to chop and change [lawyers] every time?” the magistrate asked.

Ms O’Shea confirmed there was CCTV footage of the incident in which Dr Wong was attacked and stabbed, but she indicated the case was likely to proceed to a contested committal hearing.

One of the witnesses to be called would be the psychiatrist who had been treating Mr al-Salam before the incident involving Dr Wong.

Mr Rozencwajg agreed to adjourn the case until Friday to give Ms O’Shea time to file a request to cross-examine witnesses at the committal hearing.

Dr Wong told Fairfax Media in a recent interview of how he had just stepped through the hospital’s main entrance when he felt a knife plunge deep into his back.

He was knocked to the ground, where he remained while his attacker stood over him, stabbing him another 13 times in his arms, hands, chest, abdomen and forehead.

Horrified patients and staff rushed to help Dr Wong before he underwent life saving surgery.

Over the next 10 hours, he lost his entire supply of blood – between five and six litres were replaced with transfusions – as his colleagues worked hard to save his life.

Dr Wong has since regained full movement in his arms and hands, allowing him to return to work

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Herald Sun: Man who stabbed brain surgeon 14 times in hospital will contest charges

THE man accused of attempting to murder an award-winning brain surgeon in a frenzied attack in a hospital foyer that was caught on CCTV will contest the charges, a court has heard.

Melbourne Magistrates’ Court heard Karim Al-Salam, 48, requested new legal representation and may still argue he is not guilty due to mental impairment.

Magistrate Charlie Rozencwajg said progress of the “straightforward and tragic case” had been delayed too long since Mr Al-Salam was charged shortly after the February incident.

PREVIOUSLY: SURGEON SPEAKS OF HORRIFIC STAB ATTACK

‘‘Is he going to chop and change (legal representation) every time?’’, Mr Rozencwajg asked.

Respected neurosurgeon Dr Michael Wong, 43, was left fighting for his life after being stabbed 14 times after arriving for work at the Western Hospital in Footscray on February 18.

Mr Al-Salam — who appeared in court via videolink — was charged with five offences, including attempted murder, and is in custody at mental health facility Thomas Embling Hospital.

Victoria Legal Aid lawyer Carrie O’Shea told the court she had taken over the case last week and needed to get instructions from her client about the mental impairment defence.

She said the case was likely to be contested, despite there being CCTV footage of the stabbing incident.

The court heard the psychiatrist who treated Mr Al-Salam prior to the alleged attempted murder would be called to give evidence about the Sunshine man’s mental health.

The case was adjourned until Friday so the appropriate paperwork could be lodged with the court.

Last month the court heard Mr Al-Salam’s previous lawyer was in a position to take instructions from his client on how to proceed with the case.

Mr Al-Salam, who requires an Arabic interpreter, also faces charges of intentionally causing serious injury, intentionally causing serious injury in circumstances of gross violence, recklessly causing serious injury and recklessly causing serious injury in circumstances of gross violence.

Dr Wong has returned to work after recovering from his injuries.

emily.portelli@news.com.au PORTELLI, EMILY HERALD SUN DECEMBER 17, 2014 1:58PM