Mother told of ‘grave concerns’ before paranoid schizophrenia son killed three elderly men

The mother of a man with a history of mental illness told police she had “grave concerns” about his release from custody before he killed three elderly men, a court heard.

Alexander Lewis-Ranwell, 28, had been arrested and released twice before he battered Anthony Payne, 80, with a hammer and bludgeoned 84-year-old twins Dick and Roger Carter to death with a shovel.

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

Exeter Crown Court heard Lewis-Ranwell, who had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, was first arrested on the morning of February 8 on suspicion of attempted burglary at a farm.

Lewis-Ranwell told police at Barnstaple police station that he had “no mental health issues” but had twice been sectioned for psychosis and was not “currently medicated”.

He declined a mental health assessment and denied that he was a risk to himself or others, with a mental health liaison officer “unable to identify evidence that he lacked mental capacity”, notes state.

During his time in custody, Lewis-Ranwell exhibited “bizarre behaviours” and at 10pm, his mother Jill Lewis-Ranwell phoned police.

Richard Smith QC, reading from the agreed facts in the case, told jurors: “Mrs Lewis-Ranwell, his mother, rang asking that the officer in the case contact her as ‘she has grave concerns should he be released’.”

Lewis-Ranwell was charged with burglary and criminal damage to his cell, then released at 2.49am.

Seven hours later, he was arrested for attacking a farmer with a saw and brought back to Barnstaple police station.

He told officers he suffered from “mental health problems, psychosis” and asked to see both a custody health care professional and a mental health liaison and diversion worker.

Lewis-Ranwell later refused to see a custody health care professional, who recorded that he was “fit to be interviewed, fit to be transferred and fit to charge” at 11.42am.

The defendant was taken to the floor and handcuffed after trying to grab an officer’s Taser, with staff at a handover told he had previously suffered with psychosis.

He had a 12-minute triage call with a mental health practitioner at 3pm, who identified “potential psychotic symptoms present including paranoid beliefs”.

An inspector reviewing Lewis-Ranwell’s detention wrote: “We are in the process of arranging for his mental state to be assessed by an approved mental health practitioner.

“This will be run as dual pathways as we have a serious criminal offence and the detained person potentially presents as a serious risk to the public if released”.

Lewis-Ranwell later asked for a medical assessment and it was concluded that his “bizarre behaviour is possibly of a mental health origin”, police notes state.

A forensic medical examiner, which the jury was told is a doctor, was escorted to Lewis-Ranwell’s cell at 6.30pm but decided he was not suitable for a full mental health assessment and left at 6.49pm.

The doctor, Mihal Pichiu, recommended that Lewis-Ranwell should be seen by a mental health nurse before he was released from custody.

He was released at 9.32am without this taking place.

Taxi driver Johnson Joseph picked up Lewis-Ranwell and drove him to Exeter at about 11am but became concerned by his behaviour, later telling officers he seemed “psychotic” and “like a mental health patient”.

Lewis-Ranwell entered the home of Mr Payne in the St David’s area of Exeter at about 12.30pm and picked up a rusty hammer, which he used to bludgeon the pensioner to death.

Minutes later, he was back on the streets and followed a student and her boyfriend for 40 minutes.

She rang 999 “crying and shaking” at 2pm as he refused to leave the couple alone, repeatedly asking to look in their bag and following them into a coffee shop.

Lewis-Ranwell then headed to Cowick Lane in the St Thomas area of Exeter, where he attempted to follow one of the Carter brothers into their property through the front gates.

He later went to the back of the house and scaled a wall, before taking a spade from the garden and using it to beat both to death.

Dick Carter was attacked in the kitchen, with Roger Carter killed on the stairs of the property.

Jurors have previously been told that Lewis-Ranwell had a long history of mental illness, had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and suffered from delusions.

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

The trial continues.

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