A man will face court over the stabbing of two students at the ANU.
A man will re-appear in court in October over attacks at the Australian National University. Image by Lukas Coch/AAP PHOTOS
  • politics

Man faces court over uni stabbings, frying pan assaults

September 19, 2023

A young man accused of repeatedly stabbing two women and bashing other students over the head with a frying pan will remain behind bars, as university authorities beef up campus security.

Alex Ophel, 24, is charged with two counts of attempted murder following an incident at the Australian National University on Monday, along with two counts of assault and one count of possessing an object to be used to kill.

Two 20-year-old women were taken to hospital in Canberra and remained there on Tuesday in serious but stable conditions after being treated for multiple stab wounds. A 34-year-old man and another man were treated at the scene for minor injuries.

Ophel faced the ACT Magistrates Court on Tuesday morning wearing a grey tracksuit and thongs and didn’t apply for bail when he appeared for a second time.

His lawyer initially asked for more time to speak with Ophel and “see if he can understand me”, indicating he wasn’t confident he had accurately taken instructions because of the accused’s mental state.

Ophel was remanded to re-appear in court on October 17, by which time a mental health assessment will be undertaken.

People who intervened to provide assistance during the incident were “the very best of our community”, ANU deputy vice-chancellor Sally Wheeler said.

Campus security was not lacking and they weren’t aware of any threat beforehand, she said.

“We have comprehensive security infrastructure and processes in place, including cameras, UniSafe officers, patrols, lighting, emergency phones and contact points … we are ramping this up,” Ms Wheeler said.

“(Monday) was challenging but please also know this is an isolated and extremely rare event.”

The incident is believed to have taken place between the Chifley Library and the Fellows Oval.

Police do not believe Ophel, who briefly attended ANU in 2017, was known to the alleged victims, but he has had previous interactions with police.

It’s alleged Ophel initially hit a male student on the head with a frying pan before the victim fled the scene.

Police say the accused then stabbed the first female student multiple times before chasing the second woman and stabbing her, also on multiple occasions.

It’s alleged he then approached a second male student and struck him with the frying pan.

Police did not know why the accused had a frying pan.

ANU students association president Ben Yates said his “angry” cohort would discuss security arrangements with the university.

“Students want to feel safe … that anger is directed towards the perpetrator, that anger is also directed at the fact they weren’t safe on their campus for a period of time,” he said.

“There’ll be conversations to come about how students can feel safe.”

Lifeline 13 11 14

beyondblue 1300 22 4636