`Community Care' Schizophrenics Have Killed 60

Article excerpt

A SURVEY of schizophrenics who kill while supposedly being cared for in the community has traced 47 killers convicted in English courts over the last three years, responsible for 60 deaths.

The continuing research by the National Schizophrenia Fellowship will be published next year, when the charity will also highlight the number of suicides. So far it has traced 266 suicides over three years but the researchers believe there are many more - between 300 and 500 a year - because many inquests record alternative verdicts such as misadventure and accidental death.

These figures come days after the Royal College of Psychiatrists published a report which revealed there had been 34 killings by seriously mentally ill patients in contact with psychiatric services in the 12 months before the killing.

The NSF had originally decided not to publish its research into killings by schizophrenics, because it feared creating the impression that all schizophrenia sufferers are potential killers. The NSF estimates there are about 200,000 schizophrenics in England.

But the charity now feels the public is becoming more concerned about the plight of people with serious mental illness and more fearful that the Government's "care in the community" policy fails to treat patients adequately and protect the public.

This policy came under renewed attack last week after the Royal College of Psychiatrists published its report, which blamed lack of support co-ordination for attacks carried out by schizophrenics.

Last week the NSF also published a report calling for an extra pounds 500m a year from the Government to provide more beds and psychiatrists, psychiatric nurses and social workers.

NSF researchers have not yet analysed the cases in detail, but a preliminary survey indicates a number of patterns.

The majority of cases involved killings inside the family. Eight of the victims were children. There were eight cases in which the patient killed one or both parents. In five cases a man killed his wife or partner, and there were three more where he also killed children. In two cases women killed husbands or partners and in one case a mother smothered her children.

Four of the killings took place while the killer was being treated in a private or charity hostel or residential home where the victims were care workers and other patients. Several of the victims were strangers, attacked at random.

Many cases involved patients recently discharged from hospital or receiving some form of psychiatric treatment. A majority were in their twenties and thirties.

One recurring feature was the extreme violence and frenzied nature of the attacks, with repeated stabbings and assaults with weapons such as axes, knives and sledgehammers. Many killers heard voices in their head and some became obsessed with witchcraft and the Devil.

The cases included:

- Christopher Gore, a mathematics graduate who killed his father, Dr John Gore, a nuclear physicist, as he lay in bed in the family home at Tetbury, Gloucestershire. Then he attacked his mother, Ruth, as she went to her husband's aid on the morning of 9 September 1991. …