South East Wales

Psychiatric patient 'lawfully killed' by man he attacked

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

A psychiatric patient was lawfully killed by a man he attacked in Cardiff, an inquest jury has concluded.

Khoung Lam, who had schizophrenia, died after attacking a stranger in woodland near Coryton in June 2015.

He attacked David Owen with a belt and, during the resulting struggle, the belt was tightened around his own neck. He later died.

Mr Lam had absconded from a psychiatric nurse on a shopping trip from Whitchurch Hospital.

Coroner Chris Woolley said the conclusion meant Mr Owen had deliberately applied force "in the honest and genuine belief that he was defending himself against a genuine imminent threat", and that the actions he took contributed to Mr Lam's death.

His cause of death was given as "a sudden collapse in a 42-year-old man with schizophrenia and recent behavioural abnormality, taking quetiapine, following a prolonged struggle and pressure to the neck".

The inquest, which lasted three weeks, heard he had a history of mental illness over many years.

In June 2015, he was detained under the Mental Heath Act at Whitchurch Hospital.

He had attacked his brother before being admitted and, while he was in hospital, was involved in an altercation with another patient.

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

Two days before he died he was placed in the psychiatric intensive care unit, but on 25 June he was given permission to go for a walk to shops with a nurse.

During this walk, he ran away. The inquest heard it was not the correct procedure for the nurse to chase after a patient.

He was next seen in a supermarket at Coryton, near the hospital. Police were called but, when they arrived, he "bolted" into nearby woods.

'Do you want to die?'

It was there he came across Mr Owen, who was walking to meet friends at a nearby pub.

Mr Owen, who was 58 at the time, told the inquest how Mr Lam was repeatedly saying: "Do you want to die today? What day do you want to die?"

He said Mr Lam pulled his belt off and chased him down a footpath.

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

Mr Owen said he then fell over and, as he got to his feet, Mr Lam swung the belt and the buckle hit him on the head before he put it around his neck.

He said he fought for his life, prying the belt off by pulling it over his chin, nose and forehead in three stages while they were wrestling on the floor.

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 then called police and, when they found Mr lam, he had died.

Mr Owen was initially arrested but was later released without charge.

The coroner said he was satisfied lessons surrounding Khoung Lam's death had been learnt by Cardiff and Vale University Health Board.

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