Second killer was released from mental care: 'My father died needlessly' says daughter, who calls for rethink on returning unstable people to the community

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The Independent Online
THE DAUGHTER of a man killed by a patient who had been released from a mental hospital called yesterday for a wide-ranging review of the community care of mentally ill people. It is the second court case in less than a week to provoke an attack on government

policy.

Alison Graver was speaking yesterday after Michael Buchanan, who has a history of mental illness dating from 1983, pleaded guilty at the Old Bailey to the manslaughter of her father.

Ms Graver, 25, said: 'Innocent people are dying for no reason. The Government has got to review this ridiculous policy of putting mentally unstable

people on the streets. My father died needlessly.'

On Monday Jayne Zito demanded a public inquiry into the Government's stance on mental health after her husband, Jonathan, was killed at random by a schizophrenic at a London tube station. Christopher Clunis had been released from a hospital mental health unit two months previously.

Marjorie Wallace, chief executive of Sane, a leading mental health charity, called for an immediate halt to the mental hospital closure programme which led to the loss of 35,000 psychiatric beds between 1981 and 1991. 'There is far too much pressure on psychiatrists to discharge people into the community before they are stabilised,' she said.

Department of Health sources said last night that Virginia Bottomley, the Secretary of State for Health, accepted that better safeguards were needed for mentally ill people who had been discharged into the community.

Mrs Bottomley is awaiting the conclusions of an internal review into the supervision of such people.

The Government is thought to favour tighter guardianship orders and increased community supervision rather than compulsory treatment of mentally ill people in the community who refuse to take prescribed treatment. Stopping the closure of mental hospitals is not on the agenda.

Buchanan, 23, had been allowed out of Shenley hospital in Radlett, Hertfordshire, for 17 days when he killed Frederick Graver, a former policeman who was divorced, with two daughters and a son.

He approached Mr Graver, who was parking his car on the Stonebridge Estate, Harlesden, north-west London, and asked for a cigarette. Mr Graver, 54, did not have any, and was attacked. He was repeatedly hit on the head with a 3ft long piece of wood then stamped on. He died three days later. He stole Mr Graver's car, selling it to a friend.

Godfrey Carey QC, for the prosecution, told the judge: 'All the reports indicate that his mental responsibility at the time was substantially impaired as a result of a schizophrenic illness and/or a pyschopathic personality disorder.' His condition was made worse by the abuse of alcohol and crack-cocaine.

Buchanan, 6ft and weighing 17 stone, was remanded in custody until 30 July for sentence. He has a long record of violence since he was first sent to a psychiatric unit 10 years ago. In 1985 he attacked a man with a rolling pin and two years later he assaulted a ticket inspector for no apparent reason. In 1990 he admitted assaulting a police officer and was sent to a psychiatric hospital. On 10 June last year, Buchanan was sent to Shenley by Brent magistrates under section 37 of the Mental Health Act after being convicted of burglary. On 21 August doctors decided he was fit to be released back into the community.

After his release, he committed offences including an attack on a 70-year- old man with broken glass. The day before a family found him in their home, but police released him on bail.

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