South East Wales

Hostel killing: Cardiff Mind defends Nathaniel John decisions

A mental health charity has defended its actions after a man suffering from schizophrenia killed another resident of a hostel in Cardiff.

The death of Stephen Rees, attacked by Nathaniel John in March 2011, could have been prevented, a Healthcare Inspectorate Wales (HIW) report said.

It cited communication problems and "missed opportunities" to help John.

Cardiff Mind said it acted "properly and professionally" and claimed it had no evidence that John posed a risk.

'Vulnerable' men

John, who was then 27, slashed the throat of Mr Rees, 53, at the hostel in Roath where they were both living.

The attacker phoned for an ambulance, but Mr Rees later died of his injuries.

John admitted manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility at Cardiff Crown Court in December 2011, and was remanded to a secure hospital indefinitely.

A report following a review of the killing, published on Friday, said it was clear the attack would not have happened if the two "very vulnerable" men had not been housed together.

But it said despite the risk of violence that John posed, that fact he would go on to commit an "act of murder" could not have been predicted.

Had John's schizophrenia been diagnosed earlier and he had complied with any subsequent treatment, the killing of Mr Rees "was preventable", the report said.

The review found both men had severe alcohol problems and made regular trips to the local pub.

Mr Rees was very well-known to psychiatric services and received a high level of support, but John was undiagnosed and had no meaningful contact with mental health services, the report said.

The report made six recommendations to Cardiff and Vale University Health Board, including reviewing its mental health referral process and the arrangements for providing psychiatric services for homeless people.

Not 'predictable'

Responding to the report, Cardiff Mind defended its actions in respect of John, named in the report as Mr K, and Mr Rees, identified as Mr Z.

"We have reviewed our admission procedures and are satisfied that on the basis of the information available to us at the time we acted properly and professionally as is evidenced in the report in terms of our alerting health professionals to Mr K's mental health condition," the organisation said.

"Similarly we initiated a POVA [protection of vulnerable adults] meeting in respect of Mr Z to ensure that those with the responsibility for his safety were fully aware of his vulnerability.

"The report acknowledges that is written with the benefit of hindsight but it highlights the absence of any information that Mr K was perceived as being a risk to himself or others at the time.

"We further note that the report clearly states that it was not 'predictable that Mr K would commit an act of murder'."

Cardiff Mind agreed that lessons could be learned and welcomed a recommendation for agencies to improve their communication, but claimed that "even if all information available in this case had been shared with us, there is no likelihood that things would have turned out differently".

The health board and Cardiff council both pledged to work with other agencies to address the issues raised in the report.

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