Mental patient killed after release


Published: Wednesday 29th April 2015 by The News Editor

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A “fatally flawed” decision to release a mental patient into the community against his and his parents’ wishes led to him killing an elderly neighbour, a court heard today.

Daniel Atkins, 31, of Bromley, south London, killed 71-year-old Ronald Parsons on March 2 last year – just two days after leaving secure accommodation.

Afterwards, he rang police and told them he had killed a man downstairs “for Her Majesty the Queen”, the court heard.

Atkins, who suffers from schizo affective disorder, was deemed unfit to plead to the charge of murdering Mr Parsons after the Old Bailey heard from his treating psychiatrist from Oxleas NHS Foundation Trust today.

Dr Rachel Daly also confirmed to the court that at the time of his release she was not consulted on the decision, which was taken by an unnamed “member of the treating team”.

She said after a hearing in January that his condition had worsened and he was being transferred to Broadmoor secure hospital because of incidents of violence towards staff and self-harm at the Bracton Centre where he was being treated.

Before adjourning the case for a trial of facts on a date to be fixed, Judge Paul Worsley told the court: “This case concerns the violent death of Mr Ronald Parsons who died when he was attacked by the defendant, Mr Atkins.

“Mr Atkins was a neighbour of Mr Parsons. He had been discharged from hospital where he was undergoing psychiatric treatment on February 28 2014.

“Tragically, that decision has proved to be fatally flawed because, within two days, he had gone on to kill Mr Parsons.”

The judge said Mr Parsons was a slightly-built “well-respected and peace-loving man” who had suffered ill health and needed daily help.

When he was assessed in December 2013, Mr Atkins was found to have signs of hyper-mania, stating he was a judge with “exceptional powers and was in charge with everybody”.

But, the judge said, over the next two months it was felt he had sufficiently improved to be prepared for discharge.

Atkins had said he was not ready to be discharged and his parents agreed, saying he was “not quite right”.

And the day before his release from the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Woolwich, his mother said she was “concerned” it was a premature move and he was, in her view, still too ill, the court heard.

When he was sent home, the court heard, he was “crying and emotional”, and his father complained again.

On March 2 last year, Atkins phoned emergency services and reported that he had “killed someone” for “Her Majesty the Queen” and that he had a gun.

After Mr Parsons was pronounced dead, Atkins said: “I’m sorry for what I have done. I lost it.”

Judge Worsley said: “The history is someone who has suffered mental illness in recent times. He is given medication. Despite all that and despite hope his condition had improved, tragically all that is misplaced optimism.”

Three years before Mr Parsons’ death, another Oxleas patient, schizophrenic Nicola Edgington, murdered Sally Hodkin, 58, and attempted to murder Kerry Clark, 22.

Both women had been strangers on their way to work when Edgington attacked them with a knife in Bexleyheath, south east London, in October 2011.

Edgington, who was released back into the community in 2009 after being convicted of the manslaughter of her mother, walked out of a mental health unit where she had been taken by police.

Hours earlier, she made five 999 calls asking to be sectioned under the Mental Health Act because she believed herself to be a danger. She was jailed for life with a minimum term of 37 years.

Daniel Rubenstein, solicitor for Sally Hodkin’s family, said they made a claim for negligence and a breach of human rights against Oxleas, which was settled with a payment of substantial compensation.

Following today’s hearing, the charity Hundred families expressed concern that Oxleas had not learned lessons from the Edgington case.

Atkins is thought to be the 13th patient under the care of Oxleas health services to go on to kill after being released into the community.

Julian Hendy, who is director of the charity that supports the families of those killed by people with serious mental illness, said: “This is yet another shocking case of an Oxleas patient who has gone on to kill, despite concerns about their mental health being raised beforehand.

“We’re aware of 13 cases over the last 10 years where seriously-unwell Oxleas patients have committed homicides in the community. This is far too many.

“Can the Trust actually demonstrate they are actually learning any lessons from these appalling tragedies, to keep patients, their families and the public safe, because the evidence so far suggests they can’t.”

A spokeswoman for Oxleas NHS Foundation Trust said: “We would like to express our sympathy to the family and friends of Mr Parsons.

“We can confirm that we undertook an internal inquiry involving an elected governor from Bromley and the report and action plan have been approved by our board of directors and council of governors.

“Our inquiry identified that this incident could not have been predicted and that reasonable decisions were made about the treatment Daniel Atkins was receiving from us.

“However, our inquiry did highlight changes to practice that could be made that would reduce the risk of a similar incident happening again. We have implemented these changes.”

A photograph of Atkins appeared in a local newspaper which showed him being used as a “poster boy” by the Trust at a promotion event.

Published: Wednesday 29th April 2015 by The News Editor

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