Dark voices that told him to kill

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The Independent Online
JENNY MORRISON told the friend who gave her a lift to the hostel she would take a bus back to work, or a taxi if her patient Anthony Joseph agreed to return to the hospital with her.

Within 30 minutes the compassionate and respected social worker was dead, stabbed 127 times by a man who said God had told him to kill her.

Ms Morrison, 51, had dedicated the last 10 years of her life to helping the mentally ill. But when Joseph, a paranoid schizophrenic, stepped into the interview room of the hostel, he did not see that friendly middle- aged woman. He saw a fascist terrorist bent on torturing him.

As she tried to coax him into returning voluntarily to Springfield Psychiatric Hospital, Joseph said he needed the toilet, walked out and into the kitchen. There he picked up a large knife. Quietly, he stepped back in, loomed over her chair and began plunging the knife into her neck and back. Ms Morrison screamed, but Joseph thrust the blade into her again and again, slicing more than 30 times into her hands and arms as she tried to fend him off.

Another social worker, Toyin Akande, ran to the doorway but Joseph barely paused, glancing at her stone-faced, then returning to his bloody task. Ms Akande ran, shouting for help.

The knife blade snapped with the ferocity of his attack. Blood-soaked and silent, Joseph walked to the kitchen again, picked up a knife with a six-inch blade and came back. One resident, Ian Stewart, grabbed a large kitchen knife too, to defend himself. Nobody dared try to drag Joseph off. Other residents scattered. Some froze in helpless fear as he began to stab Ms Morrison. Eventually, he stopped and walked away. Ms Morrison managed to crawl into the corridor. "I'm dying," she murmured and passed out.

Minutes later police entered the large Victorian hostel in Thurleigh, Balham, and followed a trail of blood to Joseph's room. He submitted quietly, almost emotionless as he was handcuffed. In the police car he said to an officer: "Dad, God told me to stab her." Later, he told his solicitor he was "Jesus Christ in the human form of Anthony Joseph".

Nearly six months earlier, Jenny Morrison, the passionate advocate for the mentally ill in the community, had helped him transfer to the hostel.

Joseph, the son of Indian-born mechanic Roy and his Italian wife Maria had grown up in South London. Shy and quiet during his years at a Roman Catholic school, he failed to gain many qualifications but was good at sport. As a teenager he turned to cannabis and ecstasy. His parents began to see his personality change. At 24, he was admitted to the Maudsley Psychiatric Hospital, in South London, after he threatened to throw himself in front of a train.

Later, released to his parents'home he was plagued by delusions of pursuit by the fascist group, Combat 18. In early 1998, in an argument over money, he held a kitchen knife at his mother's throat.

He was admitted to Springfield but by the June he had apparently recovered so well he was considered eligible for a halfway house. No official risk assessment was done to find how much of a danger he was. At the pounds 5-a-week hostel, the 13 residents helped with cooking and cleaning and they could come and go as they pleased. Joseph disliked most of the others, and withdrew from the little community, believing himself to be perfectly well. He tried and failed to get a council flat.

By the end of July - four months before the killing - he stopped taking his medication, boasting to other residents that he was selling the pills to clubbers. He spent the money on drink, crack cocaine, heroin and ecstacy. Joseph became abusive. Dishevelled and distant, he stopped attending community meetings and withdrew to his room where he was consumed with his dark thoughts, and controlled by the voices in his head.

In September he believed he had been visited by God and his own "Christ family". He rejected his own family, believing them to be foster parents, and invented his own Christ wife and 14 children, who walked the earth in human form.

The Old Bailey was told Joseph genuinely believed that "mother and father God" had ordered him to kill Ms Morrison in a vision. He told psychiatrists he argued with the celestial spectres, but they convinced him it was the right thing to do.

Dr Henry Kenned said he talked about Star Wars games where he and members of his "Christ family" killed thousands of humans.

Joseph also became convinced Ms Morrison was a member of the racist, terrorist group Combat 18, sent to take him back to hospital where she would talk to him in a fictitious chair. In early November, the young man told his keyworker he was not taking his medication and warned another that Ms Morrison would be "brave" to come and see him. The hostel, concerned by his abusive behaviour and their "powerless" to force him to take his medication, contacted her.

On November 23, 1998, Ms Morrison arrived at the hostel to try to coax him back to hospital. Her car in the garage for repairs, she accepted a lift and turned up early, and alone.

Now Ms Morrison's family mourn her and Joseph is looking ahead to an indefinite time inside Broadmoor Psychiatric Hospital. Two months ago, after a survey revealed that a quarter of social care staff had been assaulted in the past year, the Health Minister John Hutton promised to tackle the "unacceptable level" of violence. A Government summit on the subject is planned for Autumn.

Guidelines are proposed to ensure risk assessments are done, and further investment has been promised for medium-secure units, better drugs and secure beds. There are proposals for compulsory community treatment orders, where patients who refuse medication would be re-admitted to hospital. For the families of Jennifer Morrison and Anthony Joseph these measures are too late.