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Police charge man with attempted murder of two women over ANU campus stabbing

The man alleged to have stabbed two young women during an attack at the Australian National University appeared in court on Monday charged with attempted murder.

Alex Ophel, 24, appeared briefly before the ACT Magistrates Court, wearing a grey tracksuit and white thongs, one day after he allegedly stabbed two 20-year-old women on the ANU campus, leaving one with critical injuries.

Lawyer Tim Sharman said he was struggling to get instructions from his client on whether to apply for bail and was unsure whether Ophel was capable of giving instructions, referring to prior court findings about his mental capacity.

Sharman said he had not been formally engaged to act for Ophel but was acting as a friend of the court.

“I’m not at all confident that he has the ability to give instructions,” he said.

Sharman asked for more time to speak with Ophel before determining whether to make a bail application. Prosecutors will oppose bail, should it be applied for.

In a statement on Tuesday morning, police alleged the man initially attacked a male student with a frying pan. The victim fled from the scene before Ophel then allegedly stabbed a 20-year-old female student multiple times, before allegedly chasing a second woman and stabbing her too.

The first woman was in a serious but stable condition on Tuesday morning, downgraded from critical the night before. The second was in a stable condition, according to the statement.

The 24-year-old also allegedly punched another male student in the face.

Police have charged him with two counts of attempted murder, two counts of common assault, and with possessing a knife with intent to kill.

“Attending police were directed by witnesses to the location of the 24-year-old man and he was taken into custody. He was charged with two counts of attempted murder, two counts of assault and one count of possessing an object to be used to kill,” the police statement said.

“No motive for the incident has been identified and police do not believe the victims knew the offender.”

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ACT Policing acting Det Supt Stephanie Leonard said on Tuesday the attack had caused understandable concern in the community.

“Obviously any violent offence is concerning, ANU and Canberra are usually very safe places, incidents like this are extremely rare,” she said. “So I would encourage anyone who was troubled by these incidents to reach out to the support services available at ANU.”

She said the man’s movements prior to the attack were still the subject of an investigation and police had been “unable to establish a motive”.

“How the man came to be on the streets is currently the subject of a police investigation,” she said.

She said the attacks had occurred between Chifley Library and Fellows Oval. The women were allegedly stabbed multiple times with a knife and the two men sustained injuries that did not require hospitalisation, Leonard said.

Police are currently analysing vision of the alleged attacks, she said.

Leonard described the police response as “significant” and thanked witnesses and ANU security for their prompt action.

Witnesses were asked to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or via crimestoppers.com.au referencing P2193413.

The matter will return to court before 11.30am.

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