Indefinite hospital order for bipolar woman who beat retired nursery nurse to death
A mentally ill woman who beat her neighbour to death with a metal pole has been given an indefinite hospital order by a judge who described the attack as “savage”.
Sherry Moore, 55, who is said to have been admitted to hospital under the Mental Health Act at least six times with bipolar affective disorder, left the body of 64-year-old grandmother Sue Atkinson lying beneath a stone bird bath.
Sheffield Crown Court heard that Moore, from The Ryedales, Hull, had not been taking her medication at the time of the attack on October 20 last year and believed she was under threat from people who were “out to get her”.
Her victim, a retired nursery nurse, had previously told a friend her neighbour and eventual killer was displaying “increasingly bizarre behaviour”, prosecutors said.
A post-mortem examination found that Mrs Atkinson (pictured) suffered more than 100 injuries to her head, neck and chest, and died as a result of blunt force trauma.
A judge said injuries to her head and neck were consistent with choking or smothering.
The court heard the defendant had initially blamed her brother for the attack, but later told officers: “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.”
Moore admitted manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility, and was handed a hospital order with a restriction order meaning she cannot be released without the approval of the Secretary of State for Justice.
Passing sentence, His Honour Judge Paul Watson QC said: “The injuries were horrendous, and it is clear that the attack was sustained and savage.
“What you did, and for whatever reason, was a terrible thing.”
The court had previously heard that Mrs Atkinson, a Hull City of Culture volunteer, was found dead in her garden on October 21.
Prosecutors said a friend discovered her lying with a stone bird bath on top of her, and Moore was arrested.
The judge said of Mrs Atkinson: “She was for everyone a loving person, well liked and adored by her family and friends.
“She had no reason to think, other than past unpredictable behaviour that she observed from you, that you would behave in the way that you did on October 20 last year.
“It was substantially if not entirely attributable to your substantial mental illness.
“What we do know is that the attack which led to her death was very serious and in many ways brutal.”
Patrick Palmer, prosecuting, said the defendant, who has been diagnosed with a separate “schizo-affective disorder”, had initially tried to pass the blame for the attack, before admitting it and telling officers: “I pushed something heavy, it fell on her, I didn’t think it would make her die.”
The barrister said she appeared to be exhibiting symptoms of psychosis at the time of her arrest, saying: “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.”
The court heard that the defendant later told doctors she had been admitted 12 times to psychiatric hospital.
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.
The judge said he had received a letter from Moore in which she expressed her regret for what had happened, telling the court: “She has significant insight into what she has done and clearly now better expresses a substantial degree of remorse for her conduct, but that only goes so far.”
In a statement issued after the sentencing, Mrs Atkinson’s family said: “Susan was completely unaware of the danger lurking so close to her home when she was violently attacked and killed in her own back garden – a place where she should have been safe.
“Sherry Moore has now been sentenced and we have been promised by the NHS that an internal investigation will be carried out to identify if anything could have been done differently.
“We strongly believe it is important that lessons are learned both to help those individuals who need their support and protect those around them.
“No other family should ever have to suffer what we have been through again.”
Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2019, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Family Handout / PA Wire.