Triple killer Alexander Lewis-Ranwell not guilty of murder due to insanity

Alexander Lewis-RanwellImage copyright Facebook
Image caption Alexander Lewis-Ranwell was arrested twice in the two days before he killed the three men

A man who killed three elderly men because he wrongly believed they were paedophiles has been cleared of murder.

Exeter Crown Court heard Alexander Lewis-Ranwell battered his victims – all in their 80s – with a shovel and a hammer in a “whirlwind of destruction”.

He has paranoid schizophrenia and was having delusions about saving girls from a paedophile ring, jurors heard.

The 28-year-old was found not guilty by reason of insanity after jurors decided he “did not know it was illegal”.

Twins Richard and Roger Carter, 84, and Anthony Payne, 80, were bludgeoned on 10 February.

The court heard Lewis-Ranwell was arrested and released by police twice in the lead-up to the killings.

He began the first fatal attack just three hours after he had been released from police custody, where he had been held for wounding a farmer with a saw.

It was his second arrest in the space of 24 hours and came just seven hours after he was arrested over an attempted burglary at another farm.

Image caption Anthony Payne was killed at his home near Exeter St David’s station

Three psychiatrists agreed Lewis-Ranwell was insane when he battered his victims.

But the prosecution had argued the defendant bore some responsibility for what happened.

The court heard evidence of Lewis-Ranwell’s interaction with various health professionals during his three spells in custody between 8 and 11 February.

  • After his first arrest, on 8 February, his mother phoned police expressing “grave concerns should he be released” but he was charged and bailed.
  • Following his second arrest, at about 16:00 on 9 February, a police inspector reviewing his detention found he “potentially presents as a serious risk to the public if released”.
  • Two-and-a-half hours later, a forensic medical examiner – a doctor employed by G4S Health Services – deemed Lewis-Ranwell was not “acutely unwell” and a full mental health assessment was not carried out.

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Media captionStasys Belevicius says Alexander Lewis-Ranwell attacked him at the hotel he was managing

Lewis-Ranwell was released from Barnstaple police station at about 09:30 on 10 February and travelled to Exeter.

He entered Mr Payne’s home at about 12:30 and bludgeoned the pensioner to death with a rusty hammer.

Less than three hours later he scaled the wall of the Carter brothers’ home in Cowick Lane, took a spade from the garden and beat them both to death with it.

After his final arrest the defendant told a psychiatrist at Broadmoor secure hospital: “I cannot believe no-one helped me – they let me out twice when I was unwell.”

In sentencing, Mrs Justice May described the case as “disturbing… on so many levels – three dead, two injured at the hands of someone floridly psychotic at the time and therefore not criminally responsible”.

She said she would be making a hospital order with restrictions to ensure Lewis-Ranwell “won’t be allowed into the community until agencies are absolutely content it is OK for him to be released”.

The judge informed the court that, prior to returning their verdicts, the jury had passed her a note raising concerns about the “state of psychiatric services in Devon and the failings in care in Alexander Lewis-Ranwell’s case”.

Image copyright Devon and Cornwall Police
Image caption Lewis-Ranwell caught on CCTV on the day of the killings

In a statement, the head of custody for G4S Health Services, Jon Allen, said the company “stood by their decision” that “Lewis-Ranwell was not suicidal and did not meet the requirements of a full Mental Health Act assessment in the out-of-hours period”.

Head of major crime at Devon and Cornwall Police, Det Supt Mike West, said: “We fully accept our responsibilities to look after those detained in our custody units.

“However, it is unreasonable to suggest that police officers or staff, in these circumstances, should have over-ridden decisions made by those who are trained, qualified and skilled in health care.”

Following the trial Mr Payne’s family said they were “still profoundly shocked” and described the victims as “gentle, kind and caring gentlemen”.

The family of the Carter brothers said they were “quiet” twins who “loved the outdoors, wildlife and bird watching” and “were born, lived and died at the house in Cowick Lane”.

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