'Community care' schizophrenics have killed 60

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A SURVEY of schizophrenics who kill while supposedly being cared for in the community has traced 47 killers convicted in English courts over the last three years, responsible for 60 deaths.

The continuing research by the National Schizophrenia Fellowship will be published next year, when the charity will also highlight the number of suicides. So far it has traced 266 suicides over three years but the researchers believe there are many more - between 300 and 500 a year - because many inquests record alternative verdicts such as misadventure and accidental death.

These figures come days after the Royal College of Psychiatrists published a report which revealed there had been 34 killings by seriously mentally ill patients in contact with psychiatric services in the 12 months before the killing.

The NSF had originally decided not to publish its research into killings by schizophrenics, because it feared creating the impression that all schizophrenia sufferers are potential killers. The NSF estimates there are about 200,000 schizophrenics in England.

But the charity now feels the public is becoming more concerned about the plight of people with serious mental illness and more fearful that the Government's 'care in the community' policy fails to treat patients adequately and protect the public.

This policy came under renewed attack last week after the Royal College of Psychiatrists published its report, which blamed lack of support co-ordination for attacks carried out by schizophrenics.

Last week the NSF also published a report calling for an extra pounds 500m a year from the Government to provide more beds and psychiatrists, psychiatric nurses and social workers.

NSF researchers have not yet analysed the cases in detail, but a preliminary survey indicates a number of patterns.

The majority of cases involved killings inside the family. Eight of the victims were children. There were eight cases in which the patient killed one or both parents. In five cases a man killed his wife or partner, and there were three more where he also killed children. In two cases women killed husbands or partners and in one case a mother smothered her children.

Four of the killings took place while the killer was being treated in a private or charity hostel or residential home where the victims were care workers and other patients. Several of the victims were strangers, attacked at random.

Many cases involved patients recently discharged from hospital or receiving some form of psychiatric treatment. A majority were in their twenties and thirties.

One recurring feature was the extreme violence and frenzied nature of the attacks, with repeated stabbings and assaults with weapons such as axes, knives and sledgehammers. Many killers heard voices in their head and some became obsessed with witchcraft and the Devil.

The cases included:

Christopher Gore, a mathematics graduate who killed his father, Dr John Gore, a nuclear physicist, as he lay in bed in the family home at Tetbury, Gloucestershire. Then he attacked his mother, Ruth, as she went to her husband's aid on the morning of 9 September 1991. Their son repeatedly stabbed them and then tried to set fire to the house.

In October 1992 Gore pleaded guilty at Bristol Crown Court to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility. He was ordered to be detained indefinitely at Broadmoor high-security special hospital. Psychiatrists said he became mentally ill in childhood and developed a 'schizoid' personality.

Linbert Holness, a diagnosed schizophrenic, killed his wife and daughter with an axe after hearing voices in his head.

Jean Holness and Lynette, 14, had left the family home in Redditch, Hereford and Worcester, because his threatening behaviour had become intolerable, but they visited him most days. In November 1991 Holness rained blows on their skulls with an axe.

At Hereford Crown Court in March 1992 he denied murder but admitted manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility. He was ordered to be detained for an unlimited time in a medium secure unit in Birmingham. Holness had been diagnosed as a schizophrenic in 1975 but never received any long-term care.

Sharon Dalson, a paranoid schizophrenic, smothered her son and daughter after saying she was urged on by an evil beast to 'kill, kill, kill'. The bodies of Jason, six, and Natalia, five, were found by police at Dalson's mother's council flat in Tottenham, north London, in August 1992.

At the Old Bailey in January 1994 she pleaded guilty to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility and was ordered to be detained indefinitely at Rampton special hospital.

In 1991 she had been arrested after threatening to wound her children with a kitchen knife. An informal care order was made and the children were sent to their grandmother, but frequently returned home. No treatment appears to have been proposed for their obviously dangerous mother.

Erhi Inweh, a schizophrenic woman with a history of violence, stabbed to death Katie Sullivan, a psychology graduate doing voluntary work in a hostel for the mentally ill run by the charity Mind at Kingston upon Thames, Surrey.

Inweh, 22 at the time of the killing, was born in London of Nigerian parents. In early July 1991 she was found lying in the street and admitted to Kingston hospital. Her condition deteriorated and she became increasingly violent and spent periods in a locked hospital ward.

After she appeared to respond to treatment, her social worker applied for her to be sent to a charity hostel. Such violent patients would normally be refused, but when asked whether Inweh had demonstrated life-threatening behaviour her social worker replied no, thinking this meant suicidal tendencies.

Katie, aged 23, who wanted to become a care assistant, befriended Inweh but the patient became jealous of her for being able to work and in October 1992 - convinced that Katie was the anti-Christ and wanted to kill her - she attacked her with a carving knife, piercing her heart, liver and lungs. At the Old Bailey in May 1993, Inweh was convicted of manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility and sent to Broadmoor.