The tragic scandal of a schizophrenic killer nobody stopped

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The Independent Online
Jayne Zito (left) asked for a public inquiry into the murder of her husband, Jonathan, by Christopher Clunis (right), a paranoid schizophrenic who was at liberty under the Government's community care policy despite having run amok eight days earlier. Virginia Bottomley, Secretary of State for Health, has opted for a private inquiry. A three-week investigation by the Independent found a string of failings in the treatment of this violent patient. Rosie Waterhouse and Rhys Williams report

CHRISTOPHER CLUNIS, a paranoid schizophrenic who stabbed to death a random victim at a London railway station while at liberty under the government's controversial Care in the Community policy, ran amok threatening people with a screwdriver and a breadknife eight days earlier, the Independent has established.

But despite repeated requests from witnesses and a magistrate for the police to arrest him, and despite the fact that they knew where he lived and that he had a history of violence, police failed to pick him up.

The omission was the last, but only one of many failings that have come to light in an Independent investigation into why Clunis, known to have violent tendencies, remained at large and eventually killed someone. It has been carried out in the light of the government's refusal to conduct a public inquiry, despite a personal appeal fron the widow of the victim, Jonathan Zito, a musician who had been married only three months. Jayne Zito hopes the research will persuade Virginia Bottomley, the Secretary of State for Health, to change her mind; after being shown the chronology of events she said: 'It raises so many questions about the care Mr Clunis received. He is crying out for help.'

The Independent has pieced together Clunis's numerous encounters with hospitals, hostels, social services and police forces over the past seven years. The investigation indicates that both the community care system, and some professionals working within it, failed Clunis at critical moments in his life.

The last failure was that of police to arrest him after a rampage only eight days before the killing. Knowing he was mentally ill, they failed to tell the social services department to arrange an emergency assessment of him, until two days before the killing.

The investigation has also established that doctors at two hospitals - Chase Farm and Friern Barnet - tried to pass the buck to others. A psychiatrist at Guy's failed to ensure that Clunis was seen immediately by a psychiatrist when discharged to Friern Barnet hospital in September 1992 despite three stabbing incidents in his recent past.

Haringey Social Services, which became responsible for him, say they were not informed he could be a danger to himself or others. A consultant psychiatrist at Friern Barnet who was appointed to supervise his care made several abortive attempts to see him during the three months after his discharge from Guy's. She may not have been aware of Clunis's violent past until discharge notes from Guy's reached her after a six-week delay. It was a further three weeks before a mental health assessment team tried and failed to see him. After the screwdriver incident, they tried and failed again, the day he killed Jonathan Zito.

Passing the buck, page 6

Leading article, page 17

(Photograph omitted)