Daniel Gonzales

Does my son have to commit murder to get help?

Daniel Gonzales killed four people and seriously wounded two others in London and Brighton in September 2004, Here, in their own words, Daniel, his mother and stepfather outline the background to the case.

Lesley Savage – Daniel Gonzales’ mother

Every time we asked for help… we were told we would have to wait for a crisis to occur before he could have the help he needed. I did not know something dreadful was going to happen, but I was scared.

Daniel Gonzales – Letter to GP, October 2003

I really do need help now, I have tried to cope on my own like a normal human being without help or medication but I have not managed to succeed.

I was admitted to hospital in 1998 under section 37 of the Mental Health Act. I do not want this to happen again so I really need to go to hospital voluntarily and receive treatment under the care of the doctors before my mental state gets worse.

Please, please help me, this is very urgent. I really really do need medical help to find the correct environment and the correct medication. I need to take this in a controlled hospital environment. Please can you help me. I really would appreciate if you would help me improve as I am in a desperate situation.

Daniel was not admitted to hospital.

Daniel Gonzales

The day before I committed the offences I was seen running round Knaphill estate completely naked, round the shops, past all the pubs and everything, back down the road and all round the estate, completely naked. Yet I wasn’t arrested, no social workers or doctors came to see me or anything like that. Nothing was done to prevent that at all…I don’t know why I did it, to be honest. I’ve absolutely no idea. That morning I was punching myself in the face trying to give myself black eyes, and I did have one black eye….I was just going mad. I’ve never been that ill before, not even when I committed my offences…. I think it was a mode of self-harm but in a different type of way. I wanted to degrade myself, self-degradation to feel better. That’s the reason why I did that. I tried to break my nose by jumping face down on the dustbin; I threw myself down the stairs about three or four times. Anyway, I was running round the estate naked and everyone saw this. My step-dad called the police, the police didn’t come.

Steven Harper, Daniel’s stepfather

I can tell you exactly what happened because I still remember it like it was yesterday. I woke up in the morning; it was one of my rest days. I went downstairs, had a cup of tea, went out to the driveway and got into my car. I heard movement upstairs; I knew Daniel was awake. I sat in my car and I was just rolling a cigarette, and the next thing I knew Daniel came running up the drive, sprinting straight past me without any clothes on. This was at approximately ten past eight in the morning, and there are quite a few schools where I live, so there were people about and it was quite a busy time. I thought I would drive to see where he was going and what was going on. I couldn’t find him, so I drove round the village for a bit and then I phoned Lesley at work. She said to go and check if he’s back at home. I went back, opened up the front door. I knew he was at home because I could see through the living room window. I could see him pacing up and down. I walked in and there was no sound at all. He had obviously heard me come in and it went quiet. I said, “Daniel, I’ve been looking for you in Knaphill”. He said, “I wasn’t in Knaphill, man” in a really strange voice that I’d never heard before. I thought, something’s wrong here. I could just sense that something wasn’t quite right. I thought the only thing I can do is to go down to the police station. I thought, if I go down to the police station they’ll take me more seriously, I can give them a lot more information: paranoid schizophrenic, not taking any medication, just fill them in a bit about the details. That’s what I did.

The Police did not attend. Later that day Daniel’s mother called the duty social worker at the Community Mental Health Team but again without result.

Daniel Gonzales

If someone makes a phone call to the mental health team and says, “My son’s running round the estate naked and he’s jumping down the stairs and he’s trying to fall flat on his face to see if he can break his nose’. If I’m running round the estate naked they should [have acted] – he called the police and I didn’t get arrested for it. That would easily have prevented those crimes because I was in a very bad way.

Independent Inquiry Report

On Wednesday 15 September 2004 Daniel Gonzales, 24, caught a train from London to Portsmouth and got off at Southsea. He approached an elderly couple, Peter and Janice King, and attacked Mr King with a knife. Mr King defended himself, and Mr Gonzales ran off. Later that day he killed Marie Harding, 73, in Southwick, Brighton. He stabbed her in the back, cut her throat and stole her purse. Just after 5am on Friday 17 September 2004, Mr Gonzales killed Kevin Molloy, 46, on Tottenham High Road, North London. He stabbed him in the face, neck and chest. At about 6.50am, Koumis Constantinou was woken by the sound of Mr Gonzales breaking into his house in Hornsey, North London. Mr Constantinou was stabbed several times before his wife came to his aid and Mr Gonzales ran away. At about 8am the same day, Mr Gonzales killed Derek and Jean Robinson at their home in Highgate, North London. He stabbed them in the throat. At the time he committed the murders and attempted murders he was 24.

Daniel Gonzales was convicted of murder and given six life sentences. He was sent to Broadmoor high security hospital where staff described him as “probably the most disturbed patient we have seen in a few years”.

He took his own life there in August 2007


Sources

Quotes from Ms Savage from BBC News report

Daniel Gonzales GP letter from facsimile reproduced at Mail online article

All other quotes from Independent investigation into the care and treatment of Daniel Gonzales , January 2009

5 Replies to “Daniel Gonzales”

  1. tragic, absolutely tragic for all concerned. May they rest in peace. It’s not that long ago, living memory certainly, when the response would have come … and not from the police but from the nearest asylum. Something very sinister has taken place in this country.

  2. Absolutely horrifying and depressing. If people had done their jobs and responded, perhaps it would have helped save the lives of people. This man begged for help. Do not forget that.

  3. I was a friend of Dan’s as a teenager (we mainly knew him as “Zippy” due to his manic laugh) but he later asked us to only call him Dan – a lot of us friends hadn’t even known his real name. I was a year younger and lived in the same village as his mum whom he sometimes stayed with, and we would go out to huge illegal raves in London with a large group of friends from our local town. I saw him in distressed states both due to his mental health issues and at parties due to the drugs we were all taking. I regret taking drugs with him but at 16/17 I didn’t really understand how that might be impacting his mental health. We were all very naive and big risk-takers. I can remember trying to visit him with a couple of friends at Brookwood hospital, in a modern building, on the site of the victorian psychiatric hospital, in 2008 when he was sectioned. I remember being confused when the nurses wouldn’t allow him to come out of his room to see us so we could give him some gifts we’d brought him – just chocolate and a tub of ice cream. We truly didn’t “get” how unwell he was and then partied with him as before when he came out.

    I didn’t see him for the few years I was away at uni and the group disbanded. The last time I ever saw him he was around 22 and he seemed a little vulnerable, and not as wild as before. He asked me to help him put his earrings in and I remember thinking it was such a funny thing to do that for a grown man as he couldn’t do it himself. He was like a little boy sitting there patiently while I did it, then we waved each other off as I had things to do in town. I haven’t been able to marry together that image of him, someone I’ve actually touched and had a laugh with and cared about and danced with, with someone who could take away another person’s life. Let alone several people.

    As this was pre-social networking days I only found out a year after the murders that he had killed several people. Details from the mutual friends who told me were vague and at that time I had only been able to find sensationalist reports in tabloids online. I was shocked to read the press’s descriptions of him as a calculating serial killer as I knew he was deeply unwell with schizophrenia as a teenager but was also a very sweet and funny person. Not at all aggressive – only ever a danger to himself. At the time that I found out, Dan was still in Broadmoor. and I wrestled with myself as to whether I should contact him, maybe write to him. I consulted two colleagues who were previously mental health nurses and they advised me not to get involved. They feared for my mental health if I was pulled into his orbit. I went with their advice but I feel sad that Dan, and maybe even his family, didn’t know I was out there thinking kindly of him because I thought of schizophrenia and the mental health support he didn’t receive as being the real killer, not him. I don’t mean to cause pain to any of his victims or their families by saying that, as of course I know he was the offender, but it’s how I’ve dealt with it.

    It’s taken me 16 years to find out any meaningful information about what transpired in 2004, but I’ve been haunted by not knowing all that time, as well as by gory mental images from the newspaper descriptions back then. I think I may have developed a bit of vicarious trauma from being connected to a killer.

    I’m grateful to have found some answers above from 100 families (it’s been many years since I’ve even attempted to find out more after drawing a blank in 2006). In particular I’ve found it quite healing today to read Dan’s words both pre- and post-incident. That’s helped me to fuse together the Dan I knew with the person who spiralled so badly that they became a murderer. I changed course in 2008 and went into a career in mental health and I think my compassion for Dan and his victims are a factor in that. I still have some questions that I would like to ask so 100 families are welcome to contact me if there is any more background information that they may be able to help me find answers to.

    NB – The thing that actually led me to this page today was not curiosity about Dan but a report in the press today about Katy Sprague’s death. Although I’ve not been professionally involved in such a case I have colleagues who have been. I hope I can be part of the solution in what is an extremely sad and potentially preventable phenomenon within statutory services.

    1. Wow very honest account. A tragic episode for not only the victims but Daniels family. I was also a regular on the rave scene and did the usual stuff but unlike 90% of my friends I never smoked. Only a handful of that 90% haven’t experienced a major change in their character due to smoking weed. It’s a tragedy.

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