Mother Accuses Mental Health Trust Of Signing Her Son’s Death Warrant
The family of a fitness instructor killed by a man with paranoid schizophrenia yesterday accused medical staff of in effect signing his death warrant. Matthew Carter, 22, was so badly disfigured by Sean Perry during a random attack two years ago he had to be identified by his DNA.
An independent report published yesterday criticised the care Perry received from the South West London and St George’s mental health trust, highlighting a string of failures by those who were supposed to be looking after him.
Speaking after the findings had been released, Carter’s mother, Johanne Caton, said the care offered to her son’s killer had been “indescribably bad”. “I’ll never see my son again,” she said. “I’ll never be grandmother to his children and they’ve taken all that away from me.”
The report into the killing revealed that Perry, who admitted manslaughter at the Old Bailey in 2006 and was detained indefinitely in Broadmoor maximum security hospital, had assaulted a community psychiatric nurse a year before killing Carter but had not been prosecuted.
The authors were concerned that witness statements were only taken three months after the “particularly serious” attack on the nurse. The report added that the failure to bring charges could have been a missed opportunity to tackle Perry’s problems as it might have “encouraged him to address his condition and engage with treatment”.
The report said Perry was “known to be capable of great violence” and presented a significant risk to others when acutely psychotic. But he was not referred for a forensic assessment because the community care staff looking after him believed this would have been of limited value.
There was also an over-reliance by health workers on using Perry’s mother to monitor his progress despite her being “not adequately equipped” for this role. Caton said: “She was going to do anything to prevent him being sectioned. She is his mother. She shouldn’t be left to make that decision.”
Perry was twice a patient at the trust’s Springfield hospital in Tooting but was discharged in June 2005. His family repeatedly warned that he was refusing to take anti-psychotic drugs and urged doctors to monitor him more closely.
The report criticised the fact that Perry had no face-to-face contact with his carers in the 10 weeks leading up to the killing, which happened in February 2006. He was arrested just before the killing for a driving offence and the report said his behaviour then had made the need for further assessment “absolutely clear”. Caton said the report was the first time she had been given a comprehensive picture of what happened before the murder. “The more and more I read it, the worse it seems.”
Thomas Wright, another of the trust’s patients, stabbed his wife 77 times with a kitchen knife at their home in Tooting the same weekend that Carter was killed. Wright’s GP had urgently referred him to the trust’s local community mental health team a fortnight earlier, but he was not seen. It was also responsible for John Barrett, who killed retired banker Denis Finnegan in Richmond Park in 2004.
Yesterday Peter Houghton, chief executive of the trust, expressed his sympathy to the bereaved families. He said that since the attacks, the trust’s mental health early intervention service has trebled in size, risk assessment had improved and staff had been given more training. He said the “terrible events” were an opportunity to stop such events happening again.
But Caton said: “It’s easy to make recommendations and easy to say things, but I don’t think they’ve got people … capable of carrying them through.”