Longton pensioner's killer is detained in hospital by a court order after admitting manslaughter on grounds of diminished responsibility

A woman who stabbed her step grandfather to death as he slept in his chair has been detained in hospital indefinitely under section 37 of the Mental Health Act.

Thursday, 1st April 2021, 2:10 pm

Raymond Conlan, 75, died shortly after being found with serious injuries to his head and chest at the home he shared with his wife, Betty, in Cedar Grove in Longton, near Preston.

Their granddaughter Elizabeth Birtwistle, 32, who has schizophrenia, launched a frenzied knife attack while her grandmother was asleep upstairs, and she was unaware of the attack on her husband until police entered her bedroom.

The officers were called to the scene at around 3.50am on March 6, 2020, by the defendant who told them: "I have killed someone I have blood all over me."

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Crown Court

A Home Office post mortem examination confirmed Mr Conlan's death was due to three stab injuries to his armpit, one of which pierced his heart and another his lung.

He had also suffered multiple stab wounds to his head and neck, a blunt trauma to his head and defensive wounds to his hands.

Birtwistle, who was arrested and later detained under the Mental Health Act, had previously complained of feeling angry towards her family, and hearing voices, and her grandmother had taken her to the GP just a day before the killing.

The defendant, formerly of Dawson Walk, Preston, had entered a not guilty plea to his murder, but admitted manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility.

The scene in Longton

Prosecuting, Gordon Cole said she had been staying with her grandparents after a hospital stay caused by the deterioration in her mental health.

He told the court Mr and Mrs Conlan had been together since she was a child and she had lived with them for a short time when her mother was living away from the area.

He added: " She is described as having a good and close relationship with them."

Describing how she had telephoned police to report what she had done, he added: " Officers found him in the lounge and tried to administer CPR attempting to save his life, but when paramedics arrived he was transferred to an ambulance and despite further attempts to revive him he was pronounced dead at 5.18am."

The defendant, who was suffering delusions, told officers: "Take me, are you going to arrest me? I've killed him and my baby is dying."

She was arrested at the scene and a red Stanley knife was recovered from her pocket. Another kitchen knife was hidden behind cushions in the living room.

The court heard the defendant had a history of mental illness and has been diagnosed as schizophrenic. She had reported she had taken an overdose at her flat in Dawson Walk in Preston and was admitted to hospital.

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Longton pensioner's killer admits manslaughter on grounds of diminished responsi...

Giving evidence, Dr Lucy Bacon, consultant forensic psychiatrist at Guild Lodge, spoke of her poor mental health including PTSD, cognitive impairment, emotional dysregulation and said she had suffered a brain injury.

The court heard Birtwistle had abused alcohol and drugs from an early age but that medics did not feel they were the cause of her illness.

An officer speaking on the family's behalf told the court Mrs Conlan's health had sadly deteriorated, and her two daughters felt unable to attend court due to the tragic circumstances.

He described Mr Conlan as a retired family man who had enjoyed many holidays with his wife and spent a lot of time with her.

Imposing the section 37 order, Judge Robert Altham, the Honorary Recorder of Preston, said it would mean effectively she is under supervision for life.

He said: "I know relatively little about Mr Conlan, but I'm told he was a family man who had been retired for a considerable time.

"His wife Betty feels his loss very keenly to the extent she finds it difficult even to discuss it.

"I have no doubt he will be keenly missed not only by her, but by members of the family and extended family.

"Everyone appreciates this case is extremely tragic for all concerned."

He added all the evidence provided a "clear picture" of a young woman who has suffered mental illness throughout her adult life and was in a "florid psychotic state" when she killed Mr Conlan.

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