Stabbing at Australian National University leaves one woman in critical condition

Claire Halliday
Claire Halliday

Two 20-year-old female students are in hospital, one in a critical condition, after a stabbing at the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra on Monday.

Police allege a man hit another man on the head with a frying pan at Fellows Oval on the ANU campus around 2.40pm on 18 September.

Police also allege the man then stabbed a female student multiple times,  chased and stabbed a second female student, and then punched a second male student in the face.

Ambulance services and police were called to the campus at about 2.45pm.

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One witness reported seeing between 10 to 15 police sprinting across Fellows Oval, before handcuffing a 24-year-old man, who has since been charged with two counts of attempted murder.

She later saw a “fairly visible” wound in one victim’s back.

“They carted her off in a stretcher. But the police had this guy pinned down for a pretty long time, and that’s all we could really see for a while,” she said.

“He was cuffed behind his back and bleeding from at least one hand, from what I could see.”

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Man in custody named as previous offender

The man has been identified as former ANU student Alex Ophel. Mr Ophel previously faced court after being accused of trying to kill five people in his statistics class with a baseball bat in 2017.

That attack left one person with broken arms, knocked out the tutor and left several other people injured.

In 2019, by reasons of mental impairment, Ophel was found not guilty of five counts of attempted murder.

An email was sent to all ANU students and staff around 3:30pm yesterday, advising them of an incident on campus.

“An individual is in police custody and there is no threat to the community,” the email said.

The ANU later released a statement asking members of the public to avoid the scene as investigation continued.

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“We are asking people to stay away from Fellows Oval and Chifley Meadow on the ANU campus,” the statement said.

ACT policing urges any witnesses who have not already spoken to police to come forward.

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Claire Halliday has an extensive career as a full-time writer - across book publishing, copywriting, podcasting and feature journalism - for more than 25 years. She lives in Melbourne with children, two border collies and a grumpy Burmese cat. Contact: claire.halliday[at]