Baby stabbed by escapee

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A PSYCHIATRIC patient was able to walk out of a hospital and stab a toddler in the stomach because of a breakdown in communications among those who cared for him, an inquiry has found.

Malcolm Calladine stabbed Ashleigh Baker, aged 17 months, as she sat in a pram outside a shop in Nottingham in January 1997. She underwent surgery but has since made a full recovery. Calladine was sent to the Rampton Special Hospital indefinitely after being found unfit to plead to attempted murder.

Calladine gave adult education staff at the Highbury psychiatric hospital in Nottingham the slip, saying he was going to get a drink. Instead he caught a bus into the city centre where he bought a knife and attacked Ashleigh.

The alarm was not raised for more than half an hour after Calladine went missing because his teacher did not realise the full significance of his disappearance and then could not contact the relevant staff.

But Nottingham health authority, after a year-long inquiry, said yesterday that the incident could not have been predicted or prevented.

Calladine, who had a history of learning difficulties and mental health problems, was not considered dangerous to others, the inquiry heard. That may have been because notes for patients with learning difficulties are often not comprehensive and underplayed the risk he posed.

The inquiry panel said that "with the benefit of hindsight" communications between staff, and between staff and police, and risk assessment of patients could have been better.