Murder that followed a cycle of neglect

Discharged schizophrenics: Attacks raise disturbing questions over social services' support for mentally ill in the community

ROSIE WATERHOUSE

On 21 October 1994, a senior social worker from Islington council in north London wrote to Mary Collins, replying to her worries about her 28-year-old son, Martin Mursell, a paranoid schizophrenic who was living in an uninhabitable council flat and was refusing to see her.

"We are unable to allocate a social worker because Martin does not wish to work with me, as you are probably aware. We will of course provide appropriate services if there is a further crisis," the letter stated.

Seven days later Mursell stabbed to death his step-father and almost killed his mother, in a frenzied knife attack. Three months earlier, he had been discharged from Whittington psychiatric hospital in north London, against his will.

Despite the worries of a housing officer that he would not be able to cope, he was placed in bed and breakfast accommodation and then into a flat which had no furniture, no gas or electricity and no cooking facilities. He received support despite his mother's pleas.

And on 28 October, the day after he finally agreed to his mother's request and returned to live with her and his step- father, Joe Collins, he attacked them both, killing Mr Collins and leaving his mother for dead. Then he gave himself up.

The tragic story of Mursell's mental illness reveals a scandalous lack of co-ordination and care and cycle of neglect.

His breakdown began in about 1985 when he began to have paranoid delusions. He was jailed for four months in 1988 after an attack on his girlfriend, and was first compulsorily admitted to a psychiatric hospital for three months in February 1989 when he was diagnosed as suffering from a schizophrenic illness. He was re-admitted for three months in February 1990. At this time he was living with his mother who found his behaviour increasingly threatening and violent.

In September 1992, the social services department went on strike and Mursell was not allocated a temporary social worker due to staff shortages. His condition deteriorated after he again stopped taking his medication and began abusing alcohol and other drugs.

Mursell's relationship with his mother was breaking down and he was allocated a council flat. But in January 1993, he had a violent psychotic episode, went berserk, and wrecked his flat. He was admitted to hospital again, under the Mental Health Act, and discharged on leave on the Easter weekend. He moved back to his mother's one-bedroom flat. At first he took his medication, but stopped after developing severe side-affects.

By October 1993, when his mother remarried, Mursell had deteriorated. After "squatting" for a while in his step-father's flat he was persuaded to sign away his tenancy rights and declare himself homeless so he could be placed in bed and breakfast accommodation.

In a letter written in May 1994, Becky Boyton, a mental health court worker, asked successfully for a charge of taking a car without consent to be dropped. "His recent history catalogues a total failure on the part of health and social services to adequately support him, despite continued effort on the part of his mother who has borne the brunt of the responsibility for his care and indeed treatment," she wrote.

She added: "Should another hospital admission become necessary, I can only hope that something has been learnt from the catalogue of failure over the past year and that better discharge planning will occur as a result." But her final, prophetic warning was ignored.

In July 1994, Mursell referred himself voluntarily to the Whittington hospital. But after only two weeks he was told he had to leave. The doctors said they could not see any psychosis and despite pleas from Mr and Mrs Collins to keep him in, he was discharged again.

After visiting his mother once in August he became aggressive and abusive to her. She called the social services department, to warn that she was worried about him, but the social worker's response suggests staff had given up trying to help.

On 27 October, Mursell moved in again with his mother. The next night he attacked her and his step-father. A bitter Mrs Collins said: "What happened on 28 October was avoidable if only they had listened to me. I told them all he was unwell and needed support - the doctors, the social worker, the housing manager. If they had done their job and acted when they were warned, Martin would have been in hospital, Joe would still be alive and my life and Martin's life would not be wrecked."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
News
Johnny Handle, Northumberland, Ted Relph, President of Lakeland Dialect Society, and Sid Calderbank, Lancashire, founder of the National Dialect Day
newsMeet the enthusiasts determined to stop them dying out
News
The data shows that the number of “unlawfully” large infant classes has doubled in the last 12 months alone
i100Mike Stuchbery, a teacher in Great Yarmouth, said he received abuse
Arts and Entertainment
The starship in Star Wars: The Force Awakens
filmsThe first glimpse of JJ Abrams' new film has been released online
Sport
Rio Ferdinand returns for QPR
sportRio Ferdinand returns from his three-game suspension today
News
The Speaker of the House will takes his turn as guest editor of the Today programme
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
St Peter’s Seminary in Cardross. Argyll, has remained derelict for more than 25 years
arts + ents
News
people

Watch the spoof Thanksgiving segment filmed for Live!
Sport
Billy Twelvetrees will start for England against Australia tomorrow with Owen Farrell dropping to the bench
rugbyEngland need a victory against Australia today
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of The Guest Cat – expect to see it everywhere
books
Sport
Tyson Fury poses outside the Imperial War Museum in south London ahead of his fight against Dereck Chisora
boxingAll British heavyweight clash gets underway on Saturday night
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Opilio Recruitment: QA Automation Engineer

£30k - 38k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: An award-winning consume...

Opilio Recruitment: UX & Design Specialist

£40k - 45k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Opilio Recruitment: Publishing Application Support Analyst

£30k - 35k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We’re currently re...

Opilio Recruitment: Digital Marketing Manager

£35k - 45k per year + benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game