Homeless man John Ward sentenced to life imprisonment for murdering two Big Issue sellers in frenzied Birmingham knife attack

23-year-old pleaded guilty to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility after killing Wayne Busst and Ian Watson-Gladwish

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The Independent Online

A man with severe mental health issues who stabbed two Big Issue sellers to death in a frenzied knife attack has been sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum of 12 years.

John Ward, 23, of no fixed address, pleaded guilty to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility after killing Wayne Busst, 32, and Ian Watson-Gladwish, 31, in an incident in Birmingham city centre on 11 January.

Appearing at Birmingham Crown Court via videolink from a high-security mental health facility Ashworth Hospital today, Ward spoke only to enter pleas to both charges.

Peter Grieves-Smith, prosecuting, described how shocked commuters witnessed Ward plunge an 8in (20cm) knife into both of his victims.

He had met the pair, who were both also drug users, for the first time only a few hours earlier, after getting off a train from London.

Ward approached both men, who were both official vendors of the Bug Issue magazine as they were selling copies.

CCTV showed the three men chatting and walking together in the hours leading up to the deadly attack.

Mr Grieves-Smith said psychiatric experts for both the prosecution and defence had since agreed Ward was a paranoid schizophrenic and this serious mental health disorder lay at the root of his actions that day.

Afterwards, Ward told psychiatrists he had heard voices "screaming in his head", telling him first to kill himself.

He told Dr Panchu Xavier at Ashworth Hospital he didn't want to do anything "but the voices wanted me to kill everyone".

When Ward first arrived in Birmingham he went to a supermarket and proceeded to buy a kitchen knife and some alcohol. Later he acquired a bag of heroin, which he smoked.

Mr Grieves-Smith said Ward's previous history meant he was "was in the habit of carrying a knife for his own protection".

Shortly before 6pm, as Ward stood with Mr Busst and Mr Watson-Gladwish while they sold copies of the Big Issue magazine, he attacked.

He told Dr Xavier that, at this point, "the voices were going mad, screaming at me 'kill yourself'. The voices were saying kill random people."

Mrs Justice Thirlwall, sentencing, told Ward he was considered by psychiatric experts to be an aggressive and, even among the in-patients of Ashworth, an "exceptionally dangerous" man.

"I do not know whether you will ever be released," she said.

"That will be a matter for others."

Additional reporting by Press Association