Grieving stepdaughter of dog walker stabbed to death by paranoid schizophrenic ten days after leaving a psychiatric unit says her family was left feeling as if the victim’s life ‘counted for nothing’ as she blasts health system ‘failures’
- David Fleet killed a dog walker ten days after he was released from a psych unit
- Victim’s stepdaughter Vicki Lindsay said she is angry at health system failures
The grieving stepdaughter of paranoid schizophrenic David Fleet’s victim Lewis Stone said the family had been let down by the whole system and that his life ‘counted for nothing’.
Vicki Lindsay, 46, spoke out as a previously confidential report by health officials into Fleet’s care found a series of failings before he was released from a psychiatric unit and stabbed devoted family man Mr Stone who he encountered at random in a Welsh village.
Ms Lindsay said: ‘This has devastated our whole family. I am angry at the whole system and think there were failures right through the whole thing. We have been let down by the judge, family liaison and the mental health services.’
As well as the blunders by the Welsh health board in charge of Fleet’s care, Ms Lindsay told how he has even been allowed unescorted day release since last autumn.
She said the first time they met their local police family liaison officer was in September last year when they were told that Fleet, now 23, was being allowed out on ‘unescorted leave’.
Ms Lindsay, who had to give up her job managing a care home because Mr Stone’s death left her with post-traumatic stress disorder, said: ‘It was only three and a half years after he murdered my step-dad. To us it seems like his life counted for nothing.
‘His mum is now saying that he is well and remorseful so he should be serving a sentence to reflect the crime he has committed.
‘There is a thing called a hybrid order that allows sentences be served partly in hospital and then in a prison but because he was under 21, it did not apply to him.
‘I believe there were mental health issues.
‘I believe he knew what he was doing.
‘It was pre-meditated. He followed a girl a couple of days before, so he was intending to hurt someone. He hid the knife and fled the scene. Those are the actions of someone consciously trying to get away with murder not suffering mental illness.’
She said it was only a few weeks ago that the family were given a Homicide Self-Referral Form to fill in by Victim Support.
‘We have had no justice and no support,’ she added.
‘I hate David Fleet with a passion. I hate what he has done to us. Lewis had been my dad since I was four years old. He was very hard working, a gentleman and the rock of our family.’
Ms Lindsay said Mr Stone, a father of two, stepfather of two and grandfather of five, had been with her mother for 42 years when he was killed – and the couple planned to move permanently from Burton, Staffordshire to their home on the South Wales coast.
Ms Lindsay said that when Fleet was in court, the judge just said her stepfather ‘had been in the wrong place and the wrong time’.
She added: ‘But when he said Fleet should be held in a secure psychiatric hospital rather than prison, we assumed this meant for decades not three years. He said there would be no release until a Ministry of Justice Boad determined he was no longer a threat and that public safety would be the highest priority. I can’t believe that this is what has happened.’
Meanwhile, Fleet’s mother demanded a public apology from an NHS health board for failing her son and the victim’s family.
Sharon Lees told the BBC that prior to the attack, she had struggled to control her son’s mental state and that he had become increasingly erratic in the build up to being detained in a psychiatric unit.
Following a frightening incident in which he had ‘severely self-harmed’ in his room, he was placed on anti-psychotic medication, but his mental health still deteriorated.
She said: ‘He seemed to think that we’d put something on his head to erase his memory. It was like he was seeing things that weren’t there.
‘It was clear that he was in psychosis. He started asking bizarre questions about someone watching us.
‘Eventually he said to me that he thought he might have to kill someone because ‘people are watching us, there was hidden cameras everywhere and nowhere is safe’ – that was when I said he had to come with me to hospital.
‘We had to prise the knife off him to get him into the car and get him into hospital.’
Fleet was detained under the Mental Health Act but was allowed home for visits despite his mother claiming to have warned hospital staff he was looking for knives.
After spending four months in the facility as an in-patient, Fleet was sent home to the seaside town of Borth, Ceredigion, to the dismay of his mother who knew she would not be able to control him.
She said: ‘I just cried because I just don’t know how I’m going to cope… he’s over 6ft tall, I can’t stop him from going out.’
Recalling the dreadful day Fleet’s behaviour spiralled, Ms Lees said she ‘knew’ something awful had happened.
She recalled: ‘I’m trying to phone him, trying to message him… I looked out of the back window and I could see the air ambulance.
‘I just remember having this really sinking feeling. Like I knew.’
According to a BBC Wales investigation, a copy of an internal health board report into Fleet’s care before the attack revealed that three weeks before the stabbing, a doctor had warned he was not ready to leave hospital because of his ‘worsening mental state’.
It also referenced the ‘risks he posed with knives’.
However, he was sent home without his risk assessment being updated.
On the day of the incident, Fleet did not receive a dose of his anti-psychotic medication.
He would go on to plead guilty to Mr Stone’s manslaughter due to diminished responsibility.
He was then detained indefinitely at a secure psychiatric unit.
The family of Mr Stone have said that there was ‘no excuse or forgiveness’ for the killer and that ‘nothing could be said or done to help them understand or move on from what’s happened’.
They did concede that ‘huge failings in the mental health sector’ allowed the ‘monster [to be] walking the streets, able to cause such harm’.
Under pressure to open an independent mental health homicide review, the Welsh government has since said it is ‘satisfied’ with the Hywel Dda health board’s ‘thorough’ investigation of the case.
The board said it shared its internal report into Fleet’s care with the Welsh government but would not publish it as it contains confidential medical information.
However, Ms Lees believes more should be done and an apology should be made.
She said: ‘The feelings of guilt and remorse that David is feeling are incomprehensible.
‘It’s really important for just not only us, but for Mr Stone’s family to have a public apology because of his illness and the lack of care that he received… it only feels justified that he also receives an apology because the health board failed him, which then in turn failed his victim’s family.’
Mandy Rayani, director of nursing, quality and patient experience for Hywel Dda University Health Board, told MailOnline: ‘We are unable to comment upon any individual cases as we have a duty of care and duty of confidentiality to our patients.
‘In the event of a serious incident we have robust processes in place for reviewing the incident internally, identifying any issues and, where appropriate, preparing an improvement plan to prevent such an occurrence in the future.
‘We regret any such incidents, and always seek to learn from them. We endeavour to engage with those directly impacted whenever there is cause for concern.
‘For the most serious incidents we would conduct a clinical review of the incident. Our aim is to identify learning points and to have the relevant information available that will explain what, why and how the incident happened.
‘In accordance with national guidelines we will then submit a Serious Incident Report to Welsh Government or National Reportable Incident to the NHS Wales Executive, depending on the policy requirements at the time of the incident.’