Mother fought to get help for disturbed son before he went on killing spree

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The mother of a man with a severe personality disorder who went on a three-day spree during which he killed four people accused health and social services yesterday of ignoring her pleas during a decade-long struggle to get help.

Daniel Gonzalez, 24, was found guilty of the murder of four people and the attempted murder of two others between 15 and 17 September 2004. He told police he had wanted to become Britain's most prolific serial killer and had fantasies of spending a day as Freddie Krueger of the film Nightmare on Elm Street.

His victims were stabbed in a series of random, unprovoked attacks in Hove, Portsmouth and London. Gonzalez was arrested within hours of the last attack and was held in Broadmoor where doctors said he was the sickest patient in the high security hospital.

In an interview with The Independent, his mother, Lesley Savage, 46, revealed how she had written dozens of letters and made scores of phone calls to social services departments, mental health services and doctors pleading with them to do something for her son. She was repeatedly brushed off.

"Every time we asked for help for Daniel, or Daniel did himself, we were told we would have to wait for a crisis to occur before he could get the help he needed," she said.

In desperation, in a letter dated 22 June 1998, she wrote to the director of Surrey social services: "Does Daniel have to murder or be murdered before he can get the treatment he so badly needs?" On another occasion she wrote "I need help" in capital letters on a carer's assessment application form. It was ignored.

On 26 October 2003, nine months before the killings, Gonzalez wrote to his GP saying he felt paranoid, suicidal and could not cope. "Please, please help me, this is very urgent," he wrote. The GP referred him to hospital but he was not treated.

Yesterday, a jury rejected defence claims that Gonzalez was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia and was driven to carry out his crimes by voices in his head. This defence would have diminished his responsibility for his crimes and meant he was guilty of manslaughter.

The prosecution said he was a psychopath, who took extensive quantities of drugs and who "killed because of the callous, cold person he is". Richard Horwell, for the prosecution, said: "It is his very personality that led him to kill - disinhibited by a cocktail of drugs and alcohol."

While in Broadmoor after his arrest Gonzalez repeatedly tried to bite himself to death by opening the veins in his wrists with his teeth. He was so violent he was accompanied everywhere by prison officers in full riot gear.

A consultant psychiatrist, Edward Petch, said: "I have never seen anyone bite himself with that ferocity. He allegedly had killed four people and tried to kill six, and we all felt there was one more left - and that was himself - and he would not stop until he had succeeded."

Relatives of Gonzalez's victims cried and hugged each other in the public gallery as they heard the four verdicts of guilty. Judge Ann Goddard said he would be given a mandatory life sentence today "to be served in Broadmoor or a similar institution" and that she would fix the minimum term he had to serve before he could be considered for release.

She added: "I have to know specifically the effect on the families we have heard about. It does not take any imagination at all to know how they have been affected by the events we have been hearing about - that includes the defendant's family as well."

At the time of the murders Gonzalez was living at home with his mother, who works for Surrey County Council as an administrator, and her partner in their semi-detached home outside Woking, Surrey.

The only sign of the horror that emerged from her home is a small dent in the sink where Gonzalez stabbed the plastic washing-up bowl with the kitchen knife that he used hours later to commit the first killing.

Photos taken while he was at the private Gordon House school in Woking, where he was a chess champion, accomplished actor and obtained eight GCSEs, show a dark and handsome, but troubled boy. Unsettled and disruptive, he deteriorated after he left school when he began using street drugs. Shoplifting, window-breaking and minor assaults followed, fuelled by drugs.

The only time he did well was during a six-month period in 1998-99 when he was admitted to a medium-secure unit called the Oak Tree Clinic and treated with anti-psychotic drugs. It was the first time he had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. But, once discharged, he stopped taking the medication and reverted to his former condition.

For the next six years, until he committed the murders in September 2004 , Gonzalez received inconsistent care. He stopped and started treatments, failed to turn up for appointments, received conflicting diagnoses and was left to fend for himself. "We tried and tried to get treatment but we never got what he needed. It makes you so angry. Like warning someone to wear a bike helmet before an accident, you want to say 'I told you so'," Mrs Savage said.

Some psychiatrists questioned the diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia and claimed that he was faking mental illness in order to escape jail. This was the argument used by the prosecution at his murder trial.

There were danger signs in incidents of growing violence. He damaged property, assaulted police officers and served a jail sentence. But the signs were ignored until he became a serial killer.

His family says his situation was never quite desperate enough for the professionals who assessed him. One of the last doctors he saw before the murders said he appeared to be "doing very well without medication", his family claims.

Just days before the first of the killings, Gonzalez was seen running naked through the estate in Woking where he lived with his mother. She arrived home to find the kitchen strewn with knives.

"I did not know something dreadful was going to happen, but I was scared," she said. "I thought this is it, now they have got to help." Convinced this was the "crisis" she believed would finally prompt some positive action, Ms Savage telephoned her community mental-health team. After three attempts, she got through, only to be told to "assess" her son and contact the local psychiatric hospital if she felt in any danger. It was typical, she says, of the struggle that she and her family had endured since Gonzalez was a teenager.

Mrs Savage has visited Gonzalez regularly in Broadmoor where psychiatrists considered his illness so severe that for months he was held in the intensive care unit. He is on five drugs and she says he is much improved although he has put on four stone in weight as a side effect of the medication.

"He is so much better we can have a laugh now. But he has begun to wonder about what he did and where he is and has got depressed. I can't talk about it to him and he can't to me. But sometimes he says, 'I'm so sorry, Mum, I'm in here'."

Gonzalez's four victims

* MARIE HARDING, 73 (15 September)

Mrs Harding worked in the ticket office of Brighton and Hove Albion Football Club. Gonzales attacked her as she walked through woodland in Southwick, East Sussex, leaving her for dead after slashing her throat. Her handbag and purse were found by her side.

* KEVIN MOLLOY, 46 (17 September)

Described as a gentle giant who avoided confrontation, the former pub landlord from Ireland fell victim to Gonzales after his killer had spent 10 hours drinking in the West End. He was found dead on a pavement in Tottenham, north London, from wounds to his face, neck, chest and abdomen. He had been planning to move to Ireland to live with his mother.

* JEAN ROBINSON, 68 and her husband DEREK, 75 (17 September)

Gonzales is thought to have broken into their house in north London, and stabbed them to death in the hallway. Mr Robinson, a retired paediatrician, worked with underprivileged families and campaigned for children in Iraq. His wife had a long career with Christian Aid.