Dean Saunders inquest: Father 'allowed himself to be stabbed'

Dean Saunders
Image caption Dean Saunders, pictured with his son, was taken to Chelmsford Prison in December 2015

A father has said he walked on to a knife held by his mentally ill son to prevent his son harming himself.

Mark Saunders told an Essex inquest jury it was the only way he could get close enough to get hold of Dean, 25.

Dean Saunders had been briefly held in a mental health secure unit in Rochford before he attacked his brother and father in December 2015.

Dean was later found dead from electrocution at HMP Chelmsford after being charged with attempted murder.

Mark Saunders told the hearing at the Essex County Coroner's Court, in Chelmsford, his son had been a "typical loving boy" until December 2015.

'Justice for Dean'

The family allege a decision not to detain him under the Mental Health Act and to withdraw continuous observation in prison contributed to his death.

In a written statement, they said: "Dean was a kind and loving man.

"We hope that the inquest will properly explore what went wrong with his care and ensure that there are changes so that this doesn't happen to another family.

"We want justice for Dean. He deserved so much better."

Image caption Dean Saunders' family have criticised the Prison Service for its handling of the case

Mr Saunders told the inquest his son was "really paranoid, confused and frightened" when he was released from hospital to go home with the family to Basildon.

'Knife went in'

He said Dean went to the kitchen, picked up a knife and tried to attack his brother Lee.

Mr Saunders said he "rugby tackled" and disarmed his son, but Dean went to the kitchen to get another knife.

He told the jury that when he approached him, his son held up the knife and said: "Don't come near me, I know what I have got to do."

Mr Saunders said the only way he could get near his son was to walk towards the knife.

"The knife went in," he said. "But it was the only way I could hold him.

"I thought 'if I can keep the knife in me I can stop him taking it out and harming himself'."

Initially Dean was on constant watch in prison but that was downgraded and he was not offered any medication other than sleeping pills, said Mr Saunders.

He said the family felt they had been "lied to and misled" all the way through.

The hearing continues.

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