WARNING: Story contains graphic details which some readers may find disturbing. Discretion is advised.

A man who killed a woman by setting her on fire onboard a Toronto transit bus has been found not criminally responsible, with a judge ruling that he was “actively psychotic” at the time and incapable of distinguishing right from wrong.

Both Crown prosecutors and defence lawyers had agreed that Tenzin Norbu, the Toronto man who set a stranger on fire on a TTC bus in June 2022, is not guilty of first-degree murder due to a mental illness.

The judge agreed with them in a verdict on Tuesday.

“I am satisfied on a balance of probabilities that Mr. Norbu was actively psychotic at the time of the offence,” Justice Maureen Forestell wrote.

“His psychosis rendered him incapable of accessing rational choice at the time that he killed Ms. (Nyima) Dolma. He was unable to distinguish right from wrong as a result of his psychotic symptoms.”

Forensic psychiatrist Dr. Alina Iosif, who assessed Norbu, testified Monday that he was suffering from schizophrenia when he set Dolma on fire on June 17, 2022, at Kipling Station in Toronto’s west end. Iosif told Forestell that Norbu was unable to appreciate the moral wrongfulness of his actions.

Norbu had poured lighter fluid on Dolma and set her ablaze when they were both on a TTC bus.

Dolma was “engulfed in flames” and ran from the bus.

Click to play video: 'Toronto man appears in court after attack on TTC passenger'

Despite the efforts of some bystanders, first responders and medical professionals, Dolma didn’t survive the attack, dying 18 days later in hospital.

She suffered burns to around 60 per cent of her body, along with an inhalation injury.

The email you need for the day’s
top news stories from Canada and around the world.

“It is clear from the evidence before me that Mr. Norbu had a disease of the mind, namely schizophrenia, at the time of the offence,” Forestell wrote.

Norbu also has a substance use disorder involving alcohol and cannabis. Cannabis use “exacerbated” Norbu’s symptoms, Forestell said, but wasn’t the primary cause of them.

“His psychosis continued even after his arrest and detention when he was no longer using any substances,” Forestell noted.

“While the diagnosis of schizophrenia was only made recently, the testimony of Dr. Iosif and the records that she reviewed support the conclusion that Mr. Norbu has experienced symptoms of this illness for many years.”

Forestell said Norbu remained undiagnosed for a number of reasons and received treatment for depression, but was “intermittently compliant” with medication.

“This prevented an accurate assessment of whether the treatment was effective and whether depression was the correct diagnosis,” Forestell said.

Nyima Dolma

Nyima Dolma, 28, died in hospital on July 5, 2022.

Toronto police photo

Norbu also tried treatment with traditional medicines which might have interfered with prescribed medication, Forestell said.

Records reviewed by Iosif document Norbu’s “longstanding paranoid delusions,” Forestell wrote, including a belief that members of the Tibetan community hated him and spoke negatively about him.

He also had a “longstanding preoccupation with fire-setting.”

“Mr. Norbu’s actions on June 17, 2022, were rooted in his longstanding delusions and disorganization,” Forestell wrote.

“He held a delusional belief at the time of the offence that Ms. Dolma was recording him or had seen a video of him. This was grounded in his delusions about the Tibetan community.”

Prior to setting her on fire, Norbu asked Dolma if she was Tibetan, to which she replied “yes” in Tibetan.

“He believed that Ms. Dolma spoke at length and disparagingly of him although all she said was ‘yes’ … This was likely an auditory hallucination,” Forestell said.

After he was arrested, he “behaved bizarrely” in police interviews, speaking incoherently, laughing, crying, and making high-pitched sounds, Forestell said.

Forestell said Norbu will be remanded to the Ontario Review Board for an initial disposition hearing in the coming weeks.

The disposition will be made after the board hears evidence, particularly evidence about the risk posed by Norbu.

“The board must take into account, as its paramount consideration, the safety of the public,” Forestell noted.

“It must also consider the mental condition of the accused, the reintegration of the accused into society and the other needs of the accused.”

The board will decide what hospital Norbu will be detained at and what privileges, if any, he will have, Forestell wrote.

Forestell noted that under the Criminal Code, Norbu cannot be released unconditionally unless the board concludes that he is no longer a significant threat to the public.

Forestell said that victim impact statements are “not a relevant consideration” in determining criminal culpability and she did not consider them in determining the verdict. But she said that is not because she is “in any way minimizing the impact of this tragic death.”

Victim impact may be considered by the Ontario Review Board in deciding the disposition for Norbu, Forestell said.