Case Study: Leon Hutchinson

Independent Homicide Inquiries are mandatory if the killer has been a recent patient of mental heath services. They are supposed to be open, transparent and offer a fair degree of public scrutiny. But sometimes they don’t always turn out like that.

The Murder

In May 2005 there was a terrible murder in Huddersfield.

Leon Hutchinson was a long term mental health patient and drug user who had been previously diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. He had a long history of carrying knives and was known for unprovoked and seriously violent behaviour towards others. He was well known to the police.

Two weeks before the murder Leon had tried unsuccessfully to obtain anti-psychotic medication for his illness.

On the night of 18/19 May, whilst suffering a paranoid delusion, he used a four inch knife to fatally and repeatedly stab his flat-mate, Damilola ‘Danny’ Wilson. He was repeatedly stabbed in the face and neck causing severe and massive blood loss.

Danny, originally from Nigeria, was a committed Christian and former architecture student, who had a young son.

When arrested Leon claimed he acted in ‘self defence’ but was not reported to have been injured at all. Danny Wilson however was found to have received severe injuries to his hands as he desperately tried to defend himself.

The Trial

At the trial the prosecuting barrister said “Danny Wilson must have been in a state of absolute desperation to grab the blade of the knife as he did, while being attacked. He was killed in the course of a determined attack.”

It was, the court heard, a ferocious attack by a man who held ‘irrational’ beliefs.

Hutchinson pleaded guilty to manslaughter by diminished responsibility and was sentenced to be detained indefinitely at Rampton High Security Hospital.

The Inquiry

Three years later Yorkshire and Humberside Strategic Health Authority published the report of the independent homicide inquiry “Report of the Independent Investigation Team STEIS 2005/2081” – a title which gives no clue as to what it is actually about.

Neither the perpetrator, Leon Hutchinson, nor the victim, Danny Wilson were named in the report – not even by their initials.

Leon was referred to throughout as the “Mental Health Service User”. Danny Wilson was just “the victim”.

The town in which the murder took place was not revealed. The date and location of Hutchinson’s trial was not included, and neither was his plea, conviction or sentence.

No mental health professional was named.

Leon Hutchinson refused consent for the inquiry panel to see his medical records.

The inquiry report included no detail or analysis of the psychiatric reports of Leon Hutchinson’s mental state immediately after the murder.

Despite his long history of drug abuse, the investigation included no toxicology report and revealed no information about his levels of drug and medication consumption around the time of the incident.

The Findings

Despite his schizophrenia and history of violent assaults; despite his apparent lack of anti-psychotic medication; despite his ‘irrational’ views; despite his plea of guilty to manslaughter by diminished responsibility; despite his indefinite sentence to Rampton High Security Psychiatric hospital; despite even concluding that ‘it was foreseeable that at some point a situation was going to arise where a serious injury of fatality could occur”; the inquiry panel reached a surprising conclusion.

They claimed that Hutchinson’s mental illness did not contribute to the murder.

They said he wasn’t mentally-ill at the time of the offence.

And because he wasn’t mentally ill, the failure to predict and prevent his violence was not the fault of mental health services, so nobody was going to be held responsible or called to account.

The Strategic Health Authority said it was an ‘excellent report’.

And because the details of the case were so difficult to identify, no newspaper reported or questioned the inquiry report.

Which presumably was the whole point.


SOURCES

Details of the incident and trial from Huddersfield Examiner 23.06.05; 18.11.05; 04.07.06
and Yorkshire Post 04.07.06 Independent Inquiry is at http://www.yorksandhumber.nhs.uk/document.php?o=600

Strategic Health Authority ‘Excellent report’ comment is from Yorkshire & Humber Strategic Health Authority, Minutes of Board Meeting, April 1 2008 – p3 http://www.yorksandhumber.nhs.uk/document.php?o=994

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