Woman with history of mental illness beat retired nursery nurse to death in garden

A 55-year-old woman with a history of mental illness beat her neighbour to death in her own garden and left her body lying beneath a stone bird bath.

Sherry Moore battered 64-year-old grandmother Sue Atkinson with a metal pole because she believed she was under threat from people who were “out to get her”, Hull Crown Court heard.

Moore, from The Ryedales, Hull, had a diagnosis of bipolar affective disorder and had reportedly been admitted to psychiatric hospital at least 12 times, but was not taking medication at the time of the attack.

She was due to be sentenced on Tuesday but the case was adjourned for the judge to consider all sentencing options.

Patrick Palmer, prosecuting, said Mrs Atkinson (pictured), a retired nursery nurse, had told a friend she had seen “increasingly bizarre behaviour” from her next-door neighbour, who she described as “very strange”.

On October 20, she had been volunteering for Hull City of Culture events during the day and arranged to meet a friend that night but did not turn up.

She was found in her garden the next day by her friend, who had become concerned when she could not contact her.

Mr Palmer said: “She saw the deceased lying in the garden with a bird bath on top of her.”

He said the friend could also see a phone, broken sunglasses, blood and a metal pole nearby.

A post-mortem examination found that Mrs Atkinson died as a result of blunt force trauma and suffered more than 100 injuries to her head, neck and chest.

Police were called and found Moore sitting on her sofa in her own home.

Mr Palmer said she initially blamed her brother for the attack but later told police: “I’m a bad person, I killed a lady, I need to be in prison. She was my next-door neighbour, I’m an evil person.”

He said she added: “I pushed something heavy, it fell on her, I didn’t think it would make her die.”

The barrister said Moore was exhibiting symptoms of psychosis at the time of her arrest.

He said: “She had consistently reported that she believed she was under threat and unknown people were out to get her. She clearly was not acting rationally.

“She was suffering from an abnormality of mental function, on the balance of probabilities she acted on her paranoid beliefs.”

Mr Palmer told the court Moore had been admitted to hospital under the Mental Health Act at least six times and she told psychiatrists she had been admitted 12 times.

She was diagnosed with bipolar affective disorder in 2009 but said she would stop taking her medication when she felt well.

Mr Palmer said Moore’s hospital admissions included one in 1993 after she stabbed her two-year-old son with a kitchen knife; one in May 2014 after she smashed a bottle over her friend’s head; one in October 2014 when she entered a child’s bedroom in a stranger’s house and put a necklace around the neck of the child; and one in January 2016 when she tried to run over a police officer before barricading herself in the car.

A psychiatrist told the court that he recommended Moore, who earlier pleaded guilty to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility, is made subject to a hospital order with a restriction meaning she cannot be released without the approval of the secretary of state.

But Judge Paul Watson QC, the Recorder of Hull, said he was considering imposing a jail term, with a direction to initially send the defendant to hospital for treatment, and adjourned sentencing until June 6 at Sheffield Crown Court.

He told Moore, who wore her blonde hair in a plait and stood in the dock with three female hospital workers: “It’s clear to me that I need to consider all of the options and not just the most obvious one in this case. Those options include whether or not I should pass a prison sentence but to direct that, at least at first, you be taken to a hospital.”

Mrs Atkinson’s friends and family packed into the public gallery to listen to proceedings on Tuesday.

Speaking after the hearing, one friend, who did not want to be named, said she was shocked to hear about Moore’s medical history.

She said: “Whoever let her out of hospital should be ashamed of themselves. We have all lost a really lovely friend.”

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2019, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Family Handout / PA Wire.