A French national living in Vancouver’s West End has admitted his role in a vicious stabbing spree in his own apartment building that sent seven people, including his neighbours and a police officer, to hospital in January.

But Jerome Bonneric has pleaded not guilty, arguing the horrific and bloody attacks of Jan. 31 were brought on by a sudden psychotic break.

“The facts are not at issue,” said Bonneric’s lawyer, Bob Bellows, outside court. “What the crown is alleging occurred. The only issue is what was happening mentally to him at the time. He is not criminally responsible.”

Bonneric, who appears in older photos as a confident, muscular man, appeared hunched and pale in the courtroom, wearing handcuffs. He survived a suicide attempt in prison earlier this year.

Prosecutor Michaela Donnelly said in her opening statement that Bonneric used a kitchen knife to stab his young neighbor at Westpoint Terrace on Barclay St, just as she and two friends were cutting into a chocolate cake around 6:45 that Thursday night.

Donnelly said the neighbor, who can only be identified as Ms. Y, recognized Bonneric as her neighbour when she opened the door. That’s when Bonneric stabbed her in the abdomen and neck, Donnelly said, and then stabbed her friend, Natalie Moon.

While Ms. Y lay bleeding, Moon and another friend, Stephanie Gilmour, fled into the bedroom of the suite, and held the door closed while Bonneric dropped the knife in favour of a hammer, the court heard.

When Bonneric smashed through the bedroom door with the hammer, the pair retreated again to the bathroom. Bonneric followed, smashing a hole in the bathroom door, Donnelly said.

Police attending the scene testified seeing hammer marks on the door of the bathroom, indicating Bonneric attempted to force his way in, and blood on a number of walls, doors, railings, and carpeted floors.

A neighbor who had heard the commotion asked Bonneric, “What the hell is going on?” and Bonneric replied, “I’ll show you what’s going on,” before striking the man in the head, the court heard.

Another neighbor, Lynn Gillon, heard the noise and retreated to the lobby of the apartment. She was pushed from behind, and went head-first into plexiglass, the court heard. She was sent to Lion’s Gate Hospital with four deep scalp cuts.

Another neighbor, Lorne Pedderson, was also hit with a hammer to the head.

Police called to the scene massed in the courtyard of the building and were able to let themselves in when one apartment resident threw a key down. The officers followed shouts from neighbours, looking for Bonneric.

Const. P. Kemp testified he saw Bonneric briefly in the apartment lobby. “He had a hammer in hand, held it, he was waving it,” Kemp said. “He had a dazed, unfocused expression. He looked in our direction, directly at us.”

Another officer, Trevor Skates, testified that he was constantly looking behind him, worried that Bonneric would attack the officers as well.

“We referred to this as an active shooter, or active killer situation. It’s unraveling. Our main goal is to get the suspect as quickly as possible before he can hurt anyone else,” recalled Skates.

The group raced through the building before finding Ms. Y bleeding on the floor of the suite, Kemp said.

Kemp briefly choked up describing the appearance of Ms. Y. He said that the bloody scene disturbed him.

“This was a very different call,” he said. “I’ve been involved in a few similar calls. But this one was extreme.”

Kemp called out, “Police! Anyone else there!” and the two women, who had been hiding in the bathroom, answered. Gilmour pointed Kemp to Moon, who was holding her abdomen and bleeding. Kemp stayed with the women until paramedics arrived.

Bonneric also attacked resident William Carley, who held him down until the police could arrest him.

Ms. Y suffered lacerations of the lung, liver, and neck trachea. Her heart stopped twice during surgery. She was in a hospital bed so long she developed blot clots, a bacterial infection, and a painkiller dependency, the court heard. She has limited ability to speak and now can only speak somewhat beyond a whisper, Donnelly said.

Bonneric will testify in his own defense, said Bellows. The trial is expected to last through February.