Children’s author killed by neighbour who ‘thought he was Russian spy spreading Covid’

The gunman had previously been detained under the Mental Health Act between September 2019 and April 2020

Ella Glover
Monday 19 April 2021 18:01 BST
Mr Nash was described as a ‘kind and generous man who wanted to help people and the community at large’
Mr Nash was described as a ‘kind and generous man who wanted to help people and the community at large’ (James Nash/Facebook)

Children’s author James Nash was shot and beaten to death by a neighbour with mental health issues after he became convinced the victim was a spy working for Russian president Vladimir Putin to spread Covid-19, an inquest has heard.

Alex Sartain, 34, shot Mr Nash, aged 42, with a homemade double-barrelled shotgun, then repeatedly stamped on his head, causing him fatal injuries.

The incident occurred in the front garden of Mr Nash’s home in Upper Enham, near Andover, Hampshire, on 5 August 2020. Mr Nash died three days later at Southhampton General Hospital. 

A post mortem examination found that Mr Nash had deflected the gunshot with his left hand and he had died from multiple blunt force injuries.

The inquest, in Winchester, heard from Mr Sartain’s father and brother as well as Mr Nash’s wife, Sarah Nash. 

Ms Nash told the hearing that she had been on a video call when she heard the gunshot and raised voices from the garden, where her husband was working.

She said she found Mr Sartain stamping on her husband’s head “multiple times with intent.”

“As soon as I opened the front door I could see a man in full black leathers stamping on the face of my husband who was flat out on his back,” she said.

“He was asking me what I was going to do to compensate him for the loss of income and livelihood that he had suffered, that I knew exactly what was going on,” she told the inquest. “That I was part of the reason he was locked up, that I wasn’t who I said I was, that I was a Nasa scientist, that I knew everything about this Project Pandora, and what was I going to do about it.”

She said she attempted to calm him down but ran away when she thought he was about to attack her.

Mr Sartain’s father, John, said his son had a problem with Mr Nash and thought he “has something to do with Putin and the spread of Covid.”

He said Mr Sartain, who was detained under the Mental Health Act between September 2019 and April 2020, believed Mr Nash, who had previously worked as a graphic designer for aerospace business Airbus, had been working in a conspiracy with Boeing and Nasa.

The inquest also heard that Mr Sartain, who also died on the same day when he crashed his motorcycle while being pursued by police, believed he was being tracked by the “CIA, MI6 and SO19”.

Mr Sartain’s brother, Scott, added: “Over the past few years, Alex Sartain’s mental health really started to deteriorate and he would often stay in his room talking to himself, talking of people from space and government agencies spying on him.”

Coroner Jason Pegg said that following Mr Sartain’s release from the hospital into community care, his condition deteriorated, leading to his father contacting the NHS out-of-hours service in June over his concerns.

He said that a record of this contact was passed to Mr Sartain’s GP surgery, Adelaide Medical Surgery in Andover, but this was only filed and not brought to the attention of his GP.

Mr Pegg said that procedures had been changed at the practice to prevent this from reoccurring, following a change in management.

Recording a verdict of unlawful killing, Mr Pegg said: “Alex Sartain in his mind believed and had concerns that James Nash worked for President Putin and Nasa and James Nash was in some way in control of him.”

Mrs Nash described her husband as a “kind and generous man who wanted to help people and the community at large”.

She said: “He was inspired by everything around him, he loved to draw, he loved to create and he wanted to share that with people and that’s how he created his characters that went into his children’s books.”

Additional reporting by Press Association

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