Why Was Stabbed Careworker Ashleigh Ewing Put At Risk?

Ministers were today urged to investigate the slaying of mental health charity worker Ashleigh Ewing.

As knifeman Ronald Dixon, 35, was detained indefinitely at a top security hospital for the killing, Ashleigh’s family are left looking for answers as MPs vowed to raise the scandal with the Government

A call was also made by the family’s MP Stephen Hepburn for an open, independent inquiry into the matter.

Failings in the system which allowed Dixon into the community without sharing his violent criminal past with other agencies were highlighted during his Newcastle Crown Court case.

The dangerous offender wasn’t referred to the panel of experts under the Multi Agency Public Protection Arrangements, while he was living in the community.

And Ashleigh did not know he had almost killed his parents a decade earlier.

As reported in the later editions of last night’s Chronicle, Dixon, of Eighth Avenue, Heaton, Newcastle, pleaded guilty to the 22-year-old newly qualified mental care assistant’s manslaughter, on grounds of diminished responsibility. He denied murder.

A spokesman for Ashleigh’s parents, Aileen and Jeff, told the Chronicle: “The family are calling for answers to questions and they are considering asking a local MP to help them.”

Hebburn MP Mr Hepburn, said: “This is an appalling case. I know the family personally. I fully support their calls for an independent inquiry into what happened. It is dreadful that such an inexperienced young woman was sent to see somebody with his record. I am devastated and we need a full inquiry into how this was allowed to happen.”

Newcastle East and Wallsend MP Mr Brown, Minister for the North East, in whose constituency Dixon lived, said: “It is vital that the appropriate authorities, the courts and the police, look very carefully at what happened.”

Paranoid schizophrenic Dixon carried out the attack on Ashleigh as she went alone to visit him on May 19 last year.

She had carried out three previous visits to the bachelor whose mental illness was spiraling out of control. This was despite warnings from his psychiatric nurse that staff should not visit him alone.

Dixon had attempted to kill his parents more than a decade earlier by smashing them with a hammer as the slept at home in Shakespeare Street, Sunderland.

On the day she was stabbed to death 35 times with four kitchen knives and scissors, Ashleigh had been delivering a letter from the charity over debts he owed.

It is believed he launched into the ferocious stabbing soon after Ashleigh went inside the flat and showed him the letter.

Dixon’s treatment, and the warning signs – including the fact Dixon had been refusing to take medication – were outlined in an independent psychiatric report commissioned by his defence team. He had attacked his parents with a hammer, and tried to break-into Buckingham Palace, proclaiming he was the King of England.

Born on February 3, 1972, Dixon was one of three children, including two sisters. He had been brought up by his parents Robert and Elizabeth in a good home in Sunderland.

But they were to endure a nightmare ordeal at their son’s hands when he was 22. They were asleep when he launched a vicious hammer attack.

He was charged with attempted murder of his father and wounding with intent to cause GBH to his mother. But his distraught parents begged the authorities not to jail him, but to send him for psychiatric treatment.

His parents died years later of natural causes, but they were aware of their son’s disturbing deteriorating mental health.

After treatment, Dixon moved from Wearside to Tyneside. He was given a rented ground floor flat in Eighth Avenue, Heaton, through the charity Mental Health Matters.

He had lived at the Newcastle address with his dog for about two years before the murder.

Dixon was being risk assessed by the Mental Health Trust and visited by the charity Mental Health Matters, which was helping him integrate back into the community. But alarmingly, signs of his growing paranoia emerged just months before Ashleigh’s killing. He soon slipped back into his schizophrenic state and refused to take medication.

Instead he began drinking heavily and was showing signs of becoming more violent.

Ashleigh, from Ralph Street, Hebburn, had gone to his flat that day as part of her assessment job.

The psychology graduate had only been working for the charity since December.

The Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Trust and the Sunderland-based Mental Health Matters charity have both said they have co-operated fully with a Health and Safety Executive inquiry.

That report has now been sent to Newcastle Coroner David Mitford, who will decide whether a jury inquest will be held into Ashleigh’s death.

A spokeswoman for Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Trust said: “Since the incident we have carried out an internal review of our involvement in Ronald Dixon’s care and we are satisfied that the individuals involved in his case acted professionally and provided appropriate support to him.

“We have also, along with the other agencies involved, co-operated fully with the police and Health and Safety Executive’s investigations. We will continue to fully co-operate with the coroner’s ongoing investigations, and also with the independent inquiry that we now expect the strategic health authority to commission to look into all aspects of Ronald Dixon’s contact with a range of agencies.

“We accept that quite rightly there is a high degree of public interest in this tragic event, but until the coroner and the SHA’s independent inquiry have completed their thorough investigations it would be inappropriate for us to comment on the services we provided to Ronald Dixon.”

Ian Grant of Mental Health Matters said: “Ashleigh Ewing, a highly valued, and very able employee of Mental Health Matters, was killed while at work by Ronald Dixon.

“Ashleigh was employed as a support worker. She was a person who showed a great understanding and a commitment to the individuals she supported in her role.

“She is greatly missed by both staff and the service users she worked with. What happened to Ashleigh is a tragedy for which the organisation has no precedent and we remain deeply saddened by Ashleigh’s death.

Ordering Dixon be detained indefinitely in top security Rampton hospital, Judge David Hodson said answers must now follow why the tragedy happened.