Did lockdown turn Nottingham stabber into a psychotic killer? Valdo Calocane’s mental health spiralled at start of Covid pandemic, family friends say – as it emerges police failed to catch him for NINE MONTHS before his attacks

Did lockdown turn Nottingham stabber into a psychotic killer? Valdo Calocane’s mental health spiralled at start of Covid pandemic, family friends say – as it emerges police failed to catch him for NINE MONTHS before his attacks

Nottingham knifeman Valdo Calocane ‘mercilessly’ carried out three brutal killings which shocked the nation. 

The paranoid schizophrenic ‘brutally’ stabbed to death students Barney Webber and Grace O’Malley-Kumar, both 19, and school caretaker Ian Coates, 65, in the early hours of June 13 last year.

His victims’ families wanted him put on trial for murder but Nottingham Crown Court on Tuesday accepted his guilty plea to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility.

Grace and Barnaby were walking home at about 4am after a night out when Calocane approached, pulled a dagger out of his bag and started stabbing Barnaby.

Prosecutor Karim Khalil told how Grace had shown ‘incredible bravery’ by trying to protect her friend and fight off Calocane.

From the witness box, Calocane was branded ‘wicked’, a ‘monster’ and a ‘menace to society’.

The ‘ticking timebomb’ nicknamed ‘serial killer’ whose ‘mental health deteriorated during Covid’

Lockdown could have helped turn Nottingham stabber Valdo Calocane into a psychotic killer, family friends have suggested after saying his mental health spiralled at the start of the Covid pandemic. 

From the early months of the outbreak, the paranoid schizophrenic’s behaviour became increasingly disturbed and he was in and out of mental health hospitals for more than three years before he carried out the brutal killings.

He was sectioned for the first time in May 2020 after trying to break into two apartments, and sectioned for a second time just two months later after trying to break into a third flat. 

As the Nottingham triple killer faces sentencing, family friends have traced the start of his mental decline to early days of the pandemic.

Calocane, 32, has admitted three charges of manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility at Nottingham Crown Court

One of his victims was 19-year-old first year student Grace O'Malley-Kumar, who was stabbed to death while walking home in the early hours of June 13 last year

Prosecutors told how Grace showed 'incredible bravery' to try to protect her friend Barnaby Webber, 19, but the pair were both stabbed to death

Calocane went on to kill school caretaker Ian Coates, 65, later that same morning

Cavalry Church minister Reverend Adrian Vaughan, who is supporting Calocane’s parents Amissao, 55, and 43-year-old Celeste in their home town of Haverfordwest, said the pandemic had impacted the killer ‘in a very bad way’.

‘He nosedived into depression and was on very strong anti-depressants,’ he added.

Rev Vaughan’s wife Hazel also revealed: ‘His parents had no idea he was as bad as he was.

‘It was over Covid that he struggled tremendously and he was put on medication.

‘The medication didn’t suit him. He was getting help, and I’m guessing his meds weren’t working properly.’

Valocane had stopped taking his anti-psychotic medication ahead of the killings.

Rev Vaughan added: ‘What he did was horrific and his parents accept that, that’s why they are so distraught. How do you come to terms with the fact that your son has done such a thing?

‘They are finding it very difficult to understand but there is nothing in Valdo’s background that could have led to such a thing.

‘It can only be that he developed a mental condition that led to it. I don’t know what the victims’ families will feel about that, you want punishment in some way.’

In May 2020, just months into lockdown, Calocane tried to break into an apartment in his block of flats.

He was arrested, assessed as low-risk psychotic and released to a community crisis team – and an hour later, attempted to break into a second apartment before being reassessed and sectioned for three weeks.

Valdo Calocane in a court sketch dated November 2023

Victim Grace O'Malley-Kumar, left, pictured with father Dr Sanjoy Kumar, who has criticised 'gaps' in Valdo Calocane's treatment, alongside Grace's mother Sinead and brother James

The family of Barnaby Webber, second left, with his father David Webber, left, mother Emma and brother Charlie

How Nottingham knifeman had settled status in Britain through his Portuguese citizenship

Dual Guinea-Bissau/Portuguese national Valdo Calocane had settled status in the UK through his Portuguese citizenship.

The killer’s 55-year-old father moved to Pembrokeshire from West Africa 20 years ago to work on construction at an oil refinery in Milford Haven. His wife, Celeste, 43, followed with their three children 18 months later after he found a house and schools for the children. Calocane is the eldest child.

The family worship at the Calvary Church in Haverfordwest, although Calocane stopped attending at the age of 15 – when he was already regarded as somewhat quiet and withdrawn.

By 17, he had moved out of the family home – against his parents’ wishes – and rented a flat with friends nearby.

He is believed to have moved to Birmingham – where he drifted between bedsits – before settling in Nottingham as a mature student. An online CV suggests he found work at a branch of fashion retailer Next in the city centre.

Calocane’s father had a career change about a year ago when he started work as a carer, while his mother works as an intensive care nurse in the town’s Withybush Hospital.

Reverend Adrian Vaughan, minister at the church, said: ‘His parents moved into the street where the church is, they are strong Christians and settled in well with us.

‘When Valdo moved out of the family home he rented a place with friends.

‘I would still see him in the town centre – he always greeted me and was polite.’

The minister praised the Calocanes for being hard workers, adding: ‘They’ve never been on welfare for a single day since they came to this country.

‘Valdo’s mother is a degreed nurse in intensive care and his father is a carer out in the community.

‘They are hard-working, gentle, honest people and their children have had a good upbringing.’

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He was sectioned again that July, this time for a fortnight, after forcing his way into another apartment and his anti-psychotic medication was restarted and increased – but he admitted in August 2021 he had stopped taking it.

He was sectioned again until October 2021 after assaulting a PC during the execution of a warrant under the Mental Health Act.

The following January he was arrested and sectioned after assaulting and trapping a flatmate in kitchen before being discharged after three weeks of treatment and then going off-radar that spring. 

Dr Sanjoy Kumar, father of one of the victims Grace, has blamed flaws in Calocane’s care for the killings.

He told ITV: ‘I think there were gaps in treatment and I’m sure that should the gaps not have been there this could have been prevented.’

Calocane was actually already a wanted man by police at the time of the killings – and had been for nine months but without stopping him.

A warrant had been issued for his arrest in September 2022 after he failed to attend court over an assault on a PC a year earlier.  

Calocane was born in Guinea-Bissau, West Africa, with his family moving to the Portuguese island of Madeira when he was a toddler and then on to Lisbon when he was around eight.

His father, Amissao, moved to Pembrokeshire almost 20 years ago to work on construction at an oil refinery in Milford Haven.

His nurse wife Celeste followed with their three children in 2007, after he found a house and schools for the children, and the parents remain in Haverfordwest. 

About a year ago his father had a career change when he began work as a carer, while his mother works as an intensive care nurse.

Valdo was the oldest child, aged 16 at the time, and was soon noted as being somewhat quiet and withdrawn.

He did not sit A-levels because he didn’t think he would achieve adequate grades, the court has heard, and instead found menial work such as labouring or as a cleaner.

By 17, the Mail was told, Calocane had moved out of the family home – against his parents’ wishes – and rented a flat with friends nearby.

After settling in Nottingham, he enrolled at the city’s university as a mature student on its mechanical engineering course, and graduated in 2022.

An earlier court artist sketch of Valdo Calocane at Nottingham Magistrates' Court last June

Flowers were laid at the Ilkeston Road scene in Nottingham where Grace and Barnaby were killed, including by Barnaby's father David Webber

Grace O'Malley Kumar was praised in court for her 'incredible bravery' trying to protect her friend Barnaby Webber from Valdo Calocane's dagger blows

An online CV suggests he found work at a branch of fashion retailer Next during his studies. 

But it has emerged Calocane’s student flatmates previously thought he was so unstable they gave him a disturbing nickname.

They said he rejected offers of friendship – and said he was viewed as a ‘ticking timebomb’ who they labelled ‘serial killer’.

A source said: ‘Everyone in the flat knew Valdo was not right. They nicknamed him “serial killer”.

‘He barely talked – and when he did he was aggressive and actually pretty terrifying.

‘It sounds petty but he never did any housework or cleaning and that drove the others mad. He was obviously really bright – but that didn’t make him above doing his bit.’

Another former housemate, who lived with Calocane for much of 2020, said the killer ‘seemed like a normal guy’ back then – but admitted grappling with his mental health.

‘I didn’t know him too well but he didn’t do drugs or drink much’, the former student said.

‘He said he heard and saw things that weren’t there. I didn’t talk to him much.’

Dr Sanjoy Kumar, the father of victim Grace O'Malley-Kumar, along with Grace's mother Sinead were seen arriving at Nottingham Crown Court on Tuesday alongside her brother James

The parents of Barnaby Webber, David and Emma Webber, arriving at Nottingham Crown Court

It was revealed in court that Calocane’s brother Elias sought assurances from his sibling that he would not do anything stupid as his mental health deteriorated.

Instead he was chillingly told in a phone call shortly after the killings: ‘It’s already done.’

The siblings had a short phone conversation took place at 4.47am on June 13 – 45 minutes after Calocane had ‘calmly’ walked off leaving Grace and Barnaby Webber, dying in the street.

Calocane told his brother: ‘This will be the last time I speak to you – take the family out of the country.’

The pair had earlier spoken on the evening before the attacks, in 45-minute conversation which included Calocane telling Elias: ‘Disassociate yourself from me. If anything happens don’t come and see me in hospital.’

He went on to say: ‘This is not mental illness, I am fine. I’m not ill but there is twoway communication and 24/7 voices in my head, they are intelligent people and they are making threats.’

Elias would later tell police that while his brother’s words were disturbing, he had sounded calm at that point.

He tried to contact Calocane later on the morning of June 13 but without success then called police after seeing reports of the atrocity in Nottingham, fearing his brother could be involved.

Valdo Calocane’s disturbing past

Last June’s horrific killings in Nottingham came after a series of incidents involving Valdo Calocane, the police and mental health teams.

MAY 2020: Calocane attempted to break into an apartment in his block of flats. He was arrested, assessed as low-risk psychotic and released to a community crisis team. One hour later, he attempted to break into a second apartment. Was reassessed and sectioned for three weeks.

JULY 2020: Sectioned for two weeks after forcing way into a third apartment. Anti-psychotic medication restarted and increased, managed by community intervention team upon release.

AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2021: Admits he’s stopped taking medication and will not engage further. Assaults PC during execution of a warrant under Mental Health Act. Sectioned until October.

JANUARY 2022: Assessed and sectioned after assaulting and trapping a flatmate in kitchen. Discharged after three weeks of treatment. MARCH/APRIL 2022: Caught attempting to break into the same ground-floor property by campus security. Flatmates warned to keep door locked. Not clear what happened to Calocane. Goes off radar.

SEPTEMBER 2022: Warrant issued for Calocane’s arrest after failure to attend court over an assault on a PC a year earlier. Still a wanted man at point of the killings.

MAY 2023: Calocane attacked two colleagues at a warehouse, and was banned from the premises.

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Aidan Radnedge

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