'Stockwell Strangler' wins murder appeal
Tuesday 14 July 2009
A man who strangled seven pensioners more than 20 years ago today won his appeal against his murder convictions.
Kenneth Erskine, known as the Stockwell Strangler, who killed seven pensioners more than 20 years ago, had the convictions reduced to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility.
The decision was announced by the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge, and two other judges at the Court of Appeal in London.
Erskine's case centred on fresh medical evidence that he was suffering from an "abnormality" of the mind which substantially diminished his responsibility for the crimes.
The judges imposed a hospital order in Erskine's case.
Lord Judge said that, in the "interests of public safety", the order was for an indefinite period.
Giving the reasons for quashing the murder convictions, Lord Judge said: "This is a straightforward case. It is overwhelmingly clear that, at the time when the appellant appeared at trial, there was unequivocal contemporaneous evidence that his mental responsibility for his actions at the time of the killing was substantially impaired."
Erskine was 24 when sentenced in January 1988 for strangling seven male and female victims, aged between 67 and 94, in their homes in south London in 1986.
Erskine's case had centred on fresh medical evidence that he was suffering from an "abnormality" of the mind which substantially diminished his responsibility for the crimes.
After his conviction, Erskine was jailed for life and ordered to serve a minimum of 40 years.
At the recent hearing of his appeal, his QC, Edward Fitzgerald, told Lord Judge, sitting with Lord Justice Thomas and Mr Justice Treacy: "At the very outset we accept that these were crimes of the utmost gravity.
"However, our submission is that these were crimes of manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility, rather than murder."
He said all the medical experts agreed Erskine was suffering from severe schizophrenia at the time of the offences.
Evidence from top psychiatrist Dr Andrew Horne, a consultant at Broadmoor Hospital for 20 years, said that clinical schizophrenia would have diminished his responsibility for his actions to a "massive degree".
Mr Fitzgerald told the judges that Erskine was suffering from a chronic, incurable condition which would require life-long treatment.
He said: "The basis on which Erskine will be released, if ever, will be that it is no longer necessary for the protection of the public."
Lord Judge, the Lord Chief Justice, announced today: "We are satisfied that the convictions for murder were unsafe."
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