Paranoid schizophrenic killed three pensioners in as many hours, court hears

A man with a history of mental illness killed three elderly men hours apart because of a deluded belief they were part of a paedophile ring, a court has heard.

Paranoid schizophrenic Alexander Lewis-Ranwell, 28, battered Anthony Payne, 80, with a hammer before bludgeoning to death with a shovel 84-year-old twins Dick and Roger Carter, 84.

The killings took place at two houses just a mile-and-half away from each other in Exeter and only three hours apart on February 10 this year.

Just hours before Lewis-Ranwell attacked Mr Payne in an upstairs bedroom of his terrace home, he had been released from police custody after being arrested for attacking a farmer with a saw.

Exeter Crown Court heard this was his second arrest in the space of 24 hours and occurred just seven hours after he had been arrested for attempted burglary at another farm.

Richard Smith QC, prosecuting, told the jury that at about 12.30pm on the day of the killings, Lewis-Ranwell entered Mr Payne’s rundown home in the St David’s area of Exeter and picked up a hammer.

“He found or followed Mr Payne upstairs to a bedroom where the defendant took a hammer and bludgeoned Mr Payne to death with blows to the head.

“Moments later the defendant was back out and walking the streets again.”

Mr Smith went on: “About two and three quarter hours later on the same Sunday afternoon the defendant was by then walking down Cowick Lane in the St Thomas area of the city – about one-and-a-half miles from where the first killing had taken place.

“At 109 Cowick Lane lived the elderly Carter twin brothers. Rather like 65 Bonhay Road, it had the appearance of being unkempt and rundown. The Carter twins were 84 years of age.”

Mr Smith said nearby CCTV cameras showed one of the Carter brothers ushering the defendant out of the property when he tried to get in through the front gates.

“Undeterred this defendant want around the back of the house and scaled a wall,” he said.

“He took up a spade from the garden and went into the Carter brothers’ house. Once inside the defendant beat both brothers to death with blows to the head from the spade.”

Mr Smith said Lewis-Ranwell had a “long history” of mental illness and had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.

“One of the consequences of that condition is it appears this defendant would suffer delusions,” he said.

“One delusion it seems this defendant was suffering from on February 10 was that they were in some way involved in an undercover and established paedophile ring that was holding and abusing victims.

“These victims, he somehow delusionally believed, were involved. They were of course not involved in any such things.”

The court heard that three days before the killings Lewis-Ranwell went to a farm near Ilfracombe where he stole a drill and a bicycle.

That night he was also abusive at a pub in Coombe Martin but left voluntarily after the police were called.

The following day he took a pony from a barn and was arrested by police.

He was released from custody at 3am on February 9 and taken by the police to a homeless shelter but left.

Shortly before 9am, Lewis-Ranwell went to a smallholding owned by John and Maureen Ellis where he was caught releasing sheep and alpacas from their pens.

Mr Ellis challenged him and was attacked with a rusty saw and 4ft wooden stick, the court heard. Lewis-Ranwell was arrested again and taken back to Barnstaple police station.

He was held in custody overnight and released on the morning of February 10 where he headed to Exeter and carried out the killings.

That evening the defendant was seen in two nearby pubs and is believed to have slept rough close to Exeter Castle.

By 5am the following morning Lewis-Ranwell attacked a fifth person – Rougemont Hotel night manager Stasys Belevicius- when he walked into reception and demanded breakfast.

The police were called and he was Tasered and arrested and following concerns for his mental health, he was taken to a psychiatric unit in Exeter.

He was identified as a suspect after the bodies of the three men were found and on the evening of February 12 he was arrested at the ward and taken into police custody.

Lewis-Ranwell, from Croyde, north Devon, denies three charges of murder by reason of insanity.

At the start of the trial, judge Mrs Justice May explained to the jury their role was to determine Lewis-Ranwell’s state of mind at the time of the killings.

Mr Smith said the Crown did not accept the defendant was at the time of the killings legally insane.

“It is the prosecution case that this defendant does bear some criminal responsibility for what he did,” he added.

The trial was adjourned until Monday.

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