‘Epic failure’ in care of killer with schizophrenia

A mental health charity has condemned an “epic failure” by psychiatric services after a man with schizophrenia killed a woman at random in the street.

Martin Davies, 23, stabbed Gwen Poole, 66, with a bread knife as she waited for a lift in Llanbradach, Caerphilly.

The health board monitoring Davies said a serious incident review was underway.

The Sane charity said it raised serious questions about community care and it was “staggering” Davies was accompanied by a worker to a shop to buy vodka.

Mrs Poole’s family said they would welcome an inquiry into the care and support provided to Davies.

Davies was indefinitely detained at a high-security hospital by a judge at Cardiff Crown Court on Tuesday after he admitted manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility.

Mrs Poole was a mother-of-two who was on her way to play for her skittles team at a local working men’s club near her home when Davies randomly attacked her in the street in March 2009.

He had been released from a psychiatric hospital four months previously and was being monitored on a daily basis by a community care team who were administering medication.

On the day of the attack, he had been taken to the shops by one of the team members and had bought vodka, Coca-Cola and cigarettes, and later drank the vodka, the court heard.

Marjorie Wallace, Sane’s chief executive, said of the case: “It is quite staggering that a person taking antipsychotic medication for schizophrenia, and who has been described as ‘highly dangerous’, should be accompanied by a mental health team to a shop and allowed to buy vodka.

“Equally appalling is the failure of mental health services to respond to Martin Davies, who was known to hear voices commanding he harm himself and possibly others, yet was refused admission on several occasions to a hospital unit even when he pleaded for that safeguard.

“This left his brother to assume the day-to-day responsibility of caring for him.”

She said cases such as this raised “serious questions about the entire policy of care in the community” for individuals like Mr Davies.

“This appears to be an epic failure by psychiatric services to protect both the public and the patient.

“Two families have experienced profound tragedy and a grave disservice has been done to the thousands of people with serious mental illness who are never violent.”

Aneurin Bevan Health Board said in a statement: “This was an extremely tragic case and our thoughts are with the family of Mrs Poole and those affected by the events in March 2009.

“A serious incident review has been undertaken and is nearing completion, it would be inappropriate to comment further at this stage.”

Det Chief Supt Adrian Erasmus, senior investigating officer for Gwent Police, said Mrs Poole was “innocent, going about her daily business on the day she was killed”.

He added: “As the investigating officer, one of the first things you look at during an inquiry is motive and whether the offender is known to the victim.

“In this case it is clear Gwen was killed by a complete stranger to her who had no apparent motive.”

He said the verdict ensured Martin Davies would get the treatment he needed “so he no longer poses a threat to innocent members of the community.”