Jim & Judy Cargill

On August 1 2004 Ben Cargill went to an open air concert in Chesham with a friend. Suddenly, without warning, a man rushed up through the crowd and began stabbing him repeatedly in the back with a large knife. More than 30 people witnessed the attack. Although a doctor and nurse attempted to give first aid, Ben died at the scene. It was a completely unprovoked attack on an innocent man. Ben’s attacker, Robert Browning, suffered from paranoid schizophrenia and was known to be a risk to others when unwell. He had not been taking his medication. Ben’s parents are Jim and Judy Cargill.

JIM

We were going to have a family barbeque and Ben was going to come.

JUDY

He said, “Oh mum do you mind if I don’t come to the barbeque?” so I said “Yes okay” and “Do you want me to save you any food or anything?” He said. “No, don’t worry mum” and I said “I’ll see you tomorrow. I’ll see you tomorrow on your birthday Ben.” So he said “Yes okay mum.”

JIM

It was the last time you saw him wasn’t it?

JUDY

That’s the last time I saw him. We went off to the barbeque and you just don’t think that you’re not going to see your son again. It’s just so awful.

JIM

And when I got back the police were there. We were at Gareth’s and the police were there and I thought, “What have they been up to now?” And the policeman came up and said that somebody had been killed in Chesham in the park and his words were “Looking at you, I believe it must have been your son.” And that was it really. We obviously we wanted to go to him but we weren’t allowed to because of forensics and things like that.

JUDY

We had to wait until the next day and had to go and identify him on his birthday. Which was just absolutely dreadful.

JIM

We have often said that our life changed that day. Completely. We’re not the same, we are the same people obviously, but our life changed,

JUDY

Completely.

JIM

You know it used to be AD BC, but now it’s before Ben and after Ben. And that’s how we think now. That seems to be the crux of time, you know, that was before Ben was killed or that was after Ben was killed. That’s the kind of effect that it has on you.

You know it’s a very strange feeling but sometimes I even feel jealous when I see people with complete families you know, I think how lucky they are to have a complete family. So it does change your life doesn’t it?

On Robert Browning

JIM

They were friends at one stage, they knew each other. I think that when he was on his medication he was probably okay. And then I noticed that Ben didn’t seem to be with him any more and I said “What has happened to Robert?” and he said “Oh he thinks I’m Satan” He said “I think I’d better keep away, don’t you?” and we both laughed. Ben and I both laughed because we just thought it was preposterous. I mean you can’t imagine that anyone actually thinks that and believes it.

As we understand it he was not taking his medication. He stopped taking his medication because he thought he was fine. He then began to smoke cannabis which apparently increases people’s vulnerability as far as their mental problems are concerned and so they get worse. And then of course by the time they’ve got like that, they believe that there is absolutely nothing wrong anyway. And probably when I said he thought Ben was Satan, he probably really did believe that’s exactly who he was.

I think that the thing that makes me most angry is the fact that the person that killed Ben was actually in a position to something like that. Because it was recognised that he wasn’t well and yet somehow, for some reason, the authorities didn’t really take his or the feelings of his family into account really. They just seemed to just let him go.

They knew he was a risk because he had been violent before and his mum had told the authorities, the mental health trust, that she was very concerned about him.

But I don’t understand how come an ordinary person can look at somebody, actually look at them and think there is something wrong whereas the psychiatrists and mental health people don’t seem to be able to see it. I just think they live in a world which is void of reality. That’s how I see it really. And you too don’t you?

JUDY

Yes. And the court said, didn’t they, that this is a tragedy that should never have happened. If they had have listened to his mum, you know, we’d still have Ben.

On Information from Family Liaison and Mental Health Trusts

JIM

The police were very good

JUDY

They were excellent

JIM

No complaint with the police. They were sympathetic. They were helpful. They gave us lots of information.

JUDY

They were there, weren’t they, when we needed them. They were there.

JIM

Helped us, well tremendously really. They were very good

And how was the mental health trust?

JIM

Erm that is a different story really. I don’t think they were helpful at all. I don’t think we had any flowers.. or letters.. no in fact I know we didn’t have any.. absolutely nothing from them. They just seemed, in a way they were a bit like tortoises weren’t they, when it gets cold they put their heads in, and that’s it. They told us nothing in my opinion

How much responsibility did the trust take for what had happened?

JIM

None. They took absolutely no responsibility at all.

JUDY

None

And how did that make you feel?

JIM

Sick, you know and very angry. Very angry

JUDY Absolutely

JIM

In fact I feel, or we both feel that they are the people that that killed Ben really. Robert Browning was the perpetrator of it, but to a certain degree he couldn’t help himself. But they could.

On the Trial

JIM

I don’t think that there was anything helpful throughout the trial at all. It was over and done in less than an hour wasn’t it? The only thing about it that we thought was good was that the judge said that at least Robert Browning would be in a mental hospital for a long time.

[Robert Browning pleaded guilty to manslaughter was given an indefinite sentence in a psychiatric hospital]

JUDY

Well I thought it meant a very long time

JIM

Yeah. The police said they thought at least seven years, didn’t they? That’s what they thought.

Robert Browning was released back into the community after just three and a half years in a psychiatric hospital.

Oxford and Buckinghamshire Mental Health trust say he is no longer a risk whilst he continues to take his medication.

The Trust didn’t tell the Cargills about his release. They say they were under no legal duty to do so and couldn’t find their address.

The Department of Health guidance after such incidents is for health trusts to treat families with ‘dignity, respect and compassion’.

It is hard to see how Oxford and Buckinghamshire Mental Health Trust did so in this case.


SOURCES

Interview with Jim & Judy Cargill, April 2009

‘Dignity Respect and Compassion’ from NHS National Patient Safety Agency. Being Open, Communicating Patient safety incidents with patients, their families and carers (2009) p 17 http://www.nrls.npsa.nhs.uk/EasySiteWeb/getresource.axd?Asset ID=65172&type=full&servicetype=Attachment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *