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Co-op stabbing: Zara Anne Radcliffe detained for manslaughter

image captionZara Radcliffe appeared in court via video link from Rampton secure hospital

A woman who killed a man, 88, when he intervened to stop her attacking others in a supermarket has been detained under a hospital order.

Zara Anne Radcliffe, 30, attacked John Rees at the Co-op in Penygraig on 5 May while suffering from schizophrenia.

Merthyr Tydfil Crown Court heard he tried to stop the attack in a "brave act that ultimately cost him his life".

She pleaded not guilty to murder but admitted manslaughter on the basis of diminished responsibility.

She had also pleaded guilty to the attempted murder of three others.

Radcliffe - who appeared in court via video link from Rampton Hospital, a secure unit in Nottinghamshire - was told the order would not be time limited in order to protect the public.

A person is detained as opposed to jailed if a court deems the individual has a mental disorder which needs assessment or treatment.

Speaking after her sentencing, her father Wayne Radcliffe said he had called NHS staff and social services begging for his daughter to be readmitted on the morning of the attack, but no one came to help.

'Great courage'

image copyrightMichael Smith
image captionJohn Rees was stabbed while his wife Eunice was sitting in a car outside

Prosecution barrister Michael Jones QC told the court Mr Rees "showed great courage" as he tried to stop the attack in a "selfless and brave act that ultimately cost him his life".

Lisa Way, 53, Gaynor Saurin, 65 and Andrew Price, 58, were also attacked by Radcliffe as they shopped at the Penygraig supermarket in Rhondda Cynon Taf.

CCTV showed Radcliffe cross the road towards the supermarket before attacking Mr Price in the street as he left the shop.

She jumped on his back and struck him to the head with a kitchen knife she had brought with her from home.

image copyrightCrown Prosecution Service
image captionCCTV showed Zara Radcliffe walking towards the Co-op store before the incident

Mr Price managed to escape and ran away from her.

The video evidence showed her enter the shop and continue the attack on Ms Saurin by repeatedly stabbing her head.

Mr Rees attempted to intervene to stop her but was pushed to the floor and became the focus of the attack.

Ms Way asked Radcliffe to stop what she was doing and talk and was stabbed in the neck before escaping to a nearby takeaway.

A shop worker tried to drag Mr Rees away down one of the supermarket aisles but was stopped by Radcliffe who beat him with wine bottles and a fire extinguisher until he died from head injuries.

Mr Rees's 87-year-old wife Eunice, who has dementia, was waiting in a car outside while he had gone shopping.

'Voices in my head'

When police arrived at the store Radcliffe said: "It had to be done - that's it."

She told police she had heard voices telling her she had to kill someone to avoid being harmed herself.

She said: "I can't tell you about the voices in my head, they're so real."

image copyrightGoogle
image captionRadcliffe had received treatment at the Royal Glamorgan Hospital's mental health unit

The court heard she had been admitted to the mental health unit at the Royal Glamorgan Hospital for just over a week in October 2019.

She was readmitted on 12 November before being released on 24 February, having been assessed that she was at low risk of harm.

The court heard she was not taking her medication at the time of the attack and her family had requested additional help for her.

Radcliffe's barrister Jonathan Rees QC said she had suffered mental ill health since 2009.

He said she was truly remorseful and expressed "shame, horror and great regret" at her actions.

image captionSouth Wales Police referred itself to the Independent Office of Police Conduct after the incident

The judge, Mrs Justice Jefford, told Radcliffe: "It is highly unlikely you would have committed these offences if you had not been suffering from a severe mental illness.

"Having now received treatment and being in a more mentally stable condition you experience and have expressed genuine remorse for the actions you took that day.

"Tragic those actions were, treatment and not punishment is in my judgment the appropriate course."

Following the incident, South Wales Police referred itself to the Independent Office of Police Conduct because of previous contact with Radcliffe but it concluded the force did not need to investigate.

The court heard Radcliffe, from Porth, had called police in the hours before the attack claiming she had been attacked by someone else, but she did not remain in the same location for police to be able to speak to her.

'I was begging for help'

media captionWayne Radcliffe said his daughter's "breakdown" was a result of mental health failings

Speaking following the sentencing, Radcliffe's father said he had phoned staff at the Royal Glamorgan Hospital in Llantrisant, social services and the psychiatrist team "begging for help", after noticing her mental health was deteriorating.

Mr Radcliffe said he had rung between 08:00 until around 13:30 on the morning of the attack, telling them she was "showing signs of a relapse" and "needed to be admitted to hospital as a matter of urgency".

"[I said] 'can someone please come out as a matter of urgency, my daughter needs help', and nobody came," he said, "nobody came to assist us".

In response, Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board said it "conducts rigorous reviews into all incidents to ensure that our practice and systems are changed or improved wherever necessary".

"With legal proceedings in this case now concluded, we will continue at pace with this work," said a spokesperson.

"This is a distressing and tragic case, and we extend our condolences to the family and friends of the deceased, and to all of those involved in this sad incident in one of our communities.

"We are also offering support to anyone in the community who may have been affected by this incident."

'The very definition of a good man'

image captionFlowers and tributes were left at All Saints Church following the death of Mr Rees

There was "disbelief" over the death of Mr Rees, a grandfather from Trealaw.

He was described by his family as "the very definition of a good man, extremely respected and liked in the community".

Mr Rees helped ring the church bells every Thursday for key workers during the coronavirus pandemic.

In a victim impact statement, Mr Rees's son-in-law Patrick Davison Houston told the court he was a "warm, generous and humble gentleman".

"We are proud of his actions on that day but not surprised," he said.

Related Topics

  • Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board
  • Rhondda

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