Nigel Farmer assessed as 'low risk' weeks before murders

Nigel Farmer was assessed as a "low to moderate" risk by psychiatrists just weeks before he went "berserk" in the frenzied knife murder.

The father-of-two had checked into a psychiatric unit after telling his mother he was "scared of what he might do" to himself and others.



He had already cut his wrists and told the Old Bailey he had "never felt so low" after being thrown out by his partner who had started seeing another man.



Farmer, a drug addict with a previous conviction for a knifepoint robbery, had threatened to break her neck when he found out about the relationship.



After being admitted to hospital on 25 May last year he was hitting walls with his head and his fist, once breaking his hand, and shouting and screaming.



But four days later he walked out of the Oxleas unit in Woolwich, south east London, claiming he was not getting the treatment he needed.



A month later on 29 June he took part in the "orgy of bloodletting" that resulted in the deaths of Laurent Bonomo and Gabriel Ferez.



In the midst of the violence, he found time to ring friend Bernie Sonnex - brother of co-defendant Dano - to boast of the crime.



Bernie's girlfriend Fay Culyer overheard him shouting to one of the victims: "Shut your f****** mouth or I'll cut your hand off."



Farmer, a 34-year-old father of two, was spending £100 a day on heroin and crack cocaine and may have killed to feed his drug habit, the Old Bailey heard.



Hours later he doused the students' flat with petrol and torched it to cover up evidence, and was badly burnt in the ensuing fireball.



He would later tell Miss Culyer that one of the students - thought to be Laurent Bonomo, stabbed 194 times - "just wouldn't die".



Farmer denied a claim by Crispin Aylett QC, prosecuting, that he and Sonnex "simply went berserk".



On 7 July he handed himself in at Lewisham police station after an e-fit made with the help of a man who saw him flee from the fire was widely publicised.



But Stephen Keen, the receptionist at the station, thought it could be a hoax and that the colour of his face, said by another witness to be "red raw" was an "alcoholic flush", and told him to wait.



Farmer complained loudly: "I just killed two f****** people and the police don't f****** want to do anything about it."



Terrified witnesses said he was "wired", telling them he had third-degree burns. His faced looked flaky and his hands were red and he was rubbing cream into them.



Farmer, who drank heavily as well as taking drugs, had recently plunged into depression after splitting up from his partner of ten years, the mother of his twin sons, now aged eight.



While in custody he rang his mother to call her a "grass" after she gave a statement to police about him and said his QC would "destroy" her in court.



Dublin-born Farmer, one of four brothers and two sisters, told the court how he left home at 15 after rows with his "disciplinarian" stepfather and began working in the "glass industry".



In March 1997 he was jailed for three years after he and a friend robbed a stranger at knifepoint the previous June. He was released in April 1998.



The following year he met a new partner who he was to live with for the next ten years. She cannot be named for legal reasons. The couple had twin sons in September 2000.



He began working as a decorator, with jobs at the ITN headquarters and the ICI building as well as Liberty's and Gap in central London.



Farmer said he developed a drink problem after troubles at home, would sometimes get involved in pub fights, and once smashed up the kitchen, but he had never hurt his partner or their children.



Their relationship finally broke down after she started working in Tesco and met someone else and when she finally threw him out at the beginning of May last year he began taking increasing amounts of drugs.



"I'd never felt so low in my life, I couldn't see my kids or anything. I felt I couldn't cope," said Farmer.



He began hanging around with a group led by Bernie Sonnex, the older brother of co-defendant Dano Sonnex, who was said to have had a fearsome criminal reputation and a string of previous convictions.



Farmer would later deny that he carried out the murders because he wanted to prove to Bernie that he was not a "wally" and could commit "major league crime".



His mother took him to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Woolwich, south east London, where he was admitted to the Avery Ward of the Oxleas psychiatric unit.



She later said she was "torn apart" by the murder allegations against her son.



A medical report on Farmer from the hospital said: "He has had occasions when he has been banging his head against the wall.



"Two days ago he felt that he couldn't cope and punched a wall with his right hand which is now fractured and swollen."



On another occasion a member of staff wrote: "Nigel appeared tense and suddenly started shouting and screaming at staff. Around 2am he was observed banging his head on the wall due to tension."



There was also a "period of screaming and shouting"



Following a meeting it was decided his risk of harm to others of being discharged was "low to moderate".



Farmer admitted in court that he set fire to the flat but claimed he had been forced to do it after threats were made to his children and that he had nothing to do with the burglary and murder.



Prosecutor Crispin Aylett QC said the "sadistic ferocity" of the attack appeared to suggest that "those responsible can only have been psychopaths" but there is no evidence that either defendant suffered "any significant mental illness".

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity takes him behind the bars again
tvBy Reason of Insanity, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
News
Danczuk has claimed he is a 'man of the world'
news
Sport
Seth Rollins cashes in his Money in the Bank contract to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship
WWERollins wins the WWE World Heavyweight title in one of the greatest WrestleMania's ever seen
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor