Man accused of horrific attack has ‘low IQ’, court hears

A man accused of the horrific rape of a woman along a public walking trail only has an IQ of 63, a court has been told.

Joel Russo is fighting 17 charges in Melbourne Magistrates Court relating to the alleged rape on the night of December 3 last year.

He is accused of attacking a woman who was jogging along the Coburg section of the popular Merri Creek trail, strangling her, and “holding her head underwater, placing her in danger of death,” documents previously released by the court state.

Russo is facing 16 charges for different acts of sexual violence – some that are too graphic to print – and one charge of robbery.

But the 26-year-old may argue he could not be found guilty due to mental impairment, his lawyer Tanya Skvortsova told the court on Friday.

Russo’s alleged IQ of 63 puts him well within the intellectually disabled range of 70 and below, the court heard.

The average IQ score is between 85 and 115, with 85 to 70 considered below average.

The court previously heard he also has bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

A committal hearing in December will determine if the case against Russo is strong enough to proceed to trial, with witnesses to be called including two women who allegedly saw him about 90 minutes before the 6.30pm attack.

The man they saw was speaking in a stilted and odd manner, the court heard.

“He would say a sentence and then stare at me,” one woman told police afterwards, Ms Skvortsova said.

The other woman said she saw a man who looks like Russo “walking towards me with an unsteady gait,” Ms Skvortsova said.

The lawyer said a Victoria Police doctor did not consider Russo fit to be interviewed when he was apprehended in the early hours of December 4.

Ms Skvortsova will grill the police officers who arrested him on his manner at the time, including “his speech, his eyes … how stable he is on his feet”.

DNA evidence matching Russo’s to samples taken from the alleged victim could also be contested, she said.

Russo appeared from prison and said little at Friday’s hearing, which was held over audiovisual link.



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