South East Wales

Man fought for life after patient belt attack in Cardiff

Cardiff Central Police Station Image copyright Lewis Clarke/Geograph
Image caption The inquest is being held at Cardiff Central Police Station

A man has told how he fought for his life during an attack by a psychiatric patient who was later found dead.

Khoung Lam, 42, who had been at Whitchurch Hospital, Cardiff, fled from his carer on 25 June 2015.

He attacked passerby David Owen and tried to choke him with a belt, an inquest in Cardiff heard.

Mr Owen struggled free, put the belt around Mr Lam's neck to "render him unconscious" and then got help. Mr Lam was found dead. The inquest continues.

The hearing was told how Mr Lam had been on an escorted shopping trip when he absconded from his carer.

He went to the Asda supermarket in Coryton in the north of the city where he managed to evade three police officers who had found him in the cafe and he "bolted" into a wooded area.

Later as window fitter Mr Owen made his way to a pub along the Taff Trail, a walking route, he passed Mr Lam.

'Scared of letting go'

Mr Owen told the inquest jury how he heard Mr Lam repeatedly say: "Do you want to die today? What day do you want to die?"

"I remember him just pulling (his belt) off and I was thinking I was in trouble," said Mr Owen who was 58 at the time.

"My fear was that there was no-one else around. If he overpowered me, I was in trouble."

He told the jury how he tried to escape by going down a footpath that led to the Asda supermarket.

"The man chased me, still saying 'you are going to die' or similar words," he said.

"Then just as I got to where the footpaths joined, I fell."

As he got to his feet, he said Mr Lam swung the belt and the buckle hit him on the head before putting it around his neck, the inquest heard.

Mr Owen described how he was able to pry the belt off by by pulling it over his chin, nose and forehead in three stages while they were wrestling on the floor.

Image copyright Wales news service
Image caption David Owen said he was chased by Khoung Lam who tried to strangle him with a belt

Mr Owen said he was "exhausted" when he managed to take the belt, put it around Mr Lam's neck and apply pressure with "whatever strength I had left".

He said: "He had stopped hitting me on the head and I was just thinking is he going unconscious or is he faking it?

"I was just a bit scared of letting go."

As Mr Owen walked off toward Asda, he looked back and he "thought (from) the way he was slumped I feared he may have died".

He called the police from the supermarket. The jury heard how he had stopped work after the incident and had counselling.

Mr Owen was arrested but released without charge.

He told Mr Lam's family: "I feel I acted as I had to to survive. I wish I had never been there. I never wanted Khoung to die."

PC Gareth Stephenson told the inquest that after Mr Lam had been recognised at the Asda store, three officers were sent to escort him back to the hospital.

He said Mr Lam, who had a history of mental health problems and had been sectioned two weeks before his death, asked to finish his meal.

"I opened the door, I turned to him and I was going to take hold of his arm; at the point he bolted," PC Stephenson said.

The inquest continues.

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