Woman held GP hostage 'to clear dead son's name': Court told distraught mother threatened to ignite petrol in doctor's surgery. David Connett reports

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A WOMAN, distraught at the death of her son, held a doctor hostage with a gun and threatened to ignite petrol that she poured around the GP's surgery, an Old Bailey court was told yesterday.

Sheila Henry, 45, a nursing assistant, wanted details of the death of her 18-year-old son Anthony, released to prove a coroner's decision was unjust. Her son, a schizophrenic, died in 1986 from a drug overdose described as a 'self-inflicted death'. Henry, convinced the medication killed him, campaigned to 'clear his name.'

After writing letters to legal and medical authorities and MPs, she staged a rooftop demonstration at the coroner's court last December. In February this year she went into the north London surgery of her son's GP, Dr Rajnikant Bavishi, for an appointment with his female partner, Dr Bimal Roy Burman.

Alexander Cameron, for the prosecution, said she went in with two plastic bags containing petrol, a cigarette lighter and a toy gun. 'Her plan was to force the police to telephone the coroner and get him to produce all his notes to uncover what she believed was an unjust decision on her son's death.

'She was going to do this by taking the doctor hostage and by use of threats with the gun and petrol and lighter.' She did not intend to hurt the doctor or the surgery, Mr Cameron said.

Dr Burman was tied to her chair with bandages. When police arrived she poured petrol around the floor and produced a lighter. When she spotted police marksmen she shouted: 'You can blast me six times - I only need to blast her once.'

After a five-hour siege she handed the gun and lighter to Dr Burman and gave herself up. She told police, 'I'm sorry. I just want to know the truth about my son. I don't understand.'

Henry, of Edmonton, north London, pleaded guilty to false imprisonment. A charge of possessing an imitation firearm remained on file. She lost her job as an auxiliary nurse following the incident.

Robin Grey, for the defence, said Henry was unable to view the situation concerning her son's death objectively. She had taken steps to ensure no one would be hurt. It was a toy gun and the lighter was empty.

Dr Burman, the victim, now felt great sympathy for Henry, Mr Grey said. Police believed Henry wanted to provoke marksmen into shooting her.

She could not accept her son had deliberately taken an overdose. She had raised him herself after his violent father left the home when the child was 13 months old. She felt she was being 'brushed off' by the authorities, the court was told.

In a report read in court, Nicholas Banks, a psychiatrist who treated Henry, said she 'should be viewed as a mother seeking justice and explanation for the death of her son. Sheila Henry should be seen as a mother, driven, not by anger or malice, but by pain, despair and grief'.

She had become 'confused' and 'unable to assess situations objectively'.

She found doctors and lawyers were 'dismissive and uncaring of her deeply felt emotional needs'.

Sentencing was adjourned for probation reports.