Schizophrenic who killed policeman detained for life

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The Independent Online

Failings in community care for the mentally ill have come under renewed scrutiny after a paranoid schizophrenic man was detained indefinitely for killing a policeman who was trying to arrest him.

Failings in community care for the mentally ill have come under renewed scrutiny after a paranoid schizophrenic man was detained indefinitely for killing a policeman who was trying to arrest him.

An independent inquiry into the case of Glaister Earl Butler, 49, who stabbed Detective Constable Michael Swindells through the heart during a chase in Birmingham last year, was ordered after he was convicted of manslaughter with diminished responsibility.

Butler has suffered from mental health problems for more than 20 years and has a long history of paranoid delusions that police, MI5 and security services are plotting against him. At the time of the killing, he was being treated in the community, but unknown to his outreach team, he had not been taking his anti-psychotic medication.

A judge at Birmingham Crown Court ordered a jury to acquit Butler of murder after four psychiatrists agreed he had been suffering from an "abnormality of mind" at the time of the killing. Ordering Butler to be detained indefinitely under the Mental Health Act, Mr Justice Calvert-Smith said he could not envisage a time when he would not pose a "serious danger" to either himself or people in general, and especially the police. Eight officers had been sent to arrest Butler in May last year after he threatened to decapitate a council worker who had come to fix his fence. After a chase along a canal bank, DC Swindells approached Butler with his baton raised, but Butler swung round and stabbed him with a 14in kitchen knife.

After the killing, he continued to resist arrest, despite being sprayed with CS gas, and gave himself up only when armed officers threatened to shoot him. Seconds later, he said: "What's this? What have I done?"

Butler had mental health problems since being made redundant from his job as a design draughtsman with Rolls-Royce in 1982. He was detained under the Mental Health Act in 1994, 1999 and 2001 for aggressive and hostile behaviour.

Under his community-care order, Butler was supposed to be visited every two weeks by a psychiatric nurse with his prescription drugs. He was also assessed by a consultant psychiatrist every three months. But outreach workers admitted they often simply dropped off the medication on Butler's doorstep and had "very limited opportunity" to spot changes in his behaviour. After his arrest, police found 462 prescription tablets - equivalent to 18 months' supply - in Butler's flat.

Weeks before the killing, outreach workers had seen a knife lying on a sofa in the flat and noticed he had made holes in the door with it, but did not raise any concerns.

Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health Trust, under whose care Butler had been since 1995, have launched an internal inquiry and an independent investigation will also be launched. Sue Turner, chief executive of the trust, said: "We are extremely concerned that such a tragedy occurred and involved a person who was receiving mental health care services from the trust.

"There are many people in the community in this country who are effectively treated by assertive community treatment. I need to see whether the procedures that underpin that very effective model of care were being followed."

But Butler's brother, who declined to be named, said: "He has been let down by the system and that's it. There's nobody done nothing for him. He should have been in care at the time."

DC Swindells, 44, and with 14 years' service, was married and had a 19-year-old daughter. Outside the court, Detective Chief Inspector Glenn Moss, who led the investigation, said his family was satisfied with the verdict. "They accept that Glaister Earl Butler clearly has an illness. They are as content as they can be and have asked to bring closure to the situation."