Alexander Lewis-Ranwell, 28, was freed from custody on the morning of the murders in Exeter
This is the moment police released a paranoid schizophrenic despite concerns he posed a ‘serious risk to the public’ just hours before he murdered three male pensioners, a court heard today.
Alexander Lewis-Ranwell, 28, was freed from custody on the morning of the murders after a doctor’s recommendation he be seen by a mental health nurse was ignored.
The court heard he was under the delusion he was uncovering a paedophile ring when he killed Anthony Payne, 80, and 84-year-old twin brothers, Roger and Dick Carter in Exeter, Devon.
Lewis-Ranwell has admitted the killings in February, but pleaded not guilty to murder on the basis of insanity.
The victims were all killed in Exeter, just a couple of hours apart with Lewis-Ranwell using a hammer in one attack and a spade in the other.
Exeter Crown Court heard today he was arrested the day before the murder for an attack on farmer John Ellis with a four-foot saw.
The court was told that a doctor had seen him during his second arrest detention who recommended that the 28-year-old should be seen by a mental health nurse before he was released on police bail.
Alexander Lewis-Ranwell is seen in an image from CCTV footage being released from Barnstaple police station
The court heard he was under the delusion he was uncovering a paedophile ring when he killed Anthony Payne, 80 (pictured)
An officer hands Mr Lewis-Ranwell some papers in the CCTV images released today
But despite showing signs of mental illness, the jury was told Lewis-Ranwell was released on bail the next morning.
He then travelled to Exeter, Devon, where he embarked on a killing spree over a mistaken belief from the defendant that he was uncovering a ring of child sex offenders.
Prosecution barrister Richard Smith QC told the jury Lewis-Ranwell killed his first victim at around 12.30pm on February 10 when he murdered Anthony Payne with a hammer.
Around two and a half hours later he killed the elderly twins with a spade, the court heard.
A court artist’s sketch of Lewis-Ranwell appearing at Exeter Magistrates’ Court on February 16
But the jury heard evidence that police had expressed concerns that Lewis-Ranwell would be a danger to the public if he was released.
The court heard after his arrest for the farmer attack he remained at Barnstaple Police Station through the day.
Police arranged for him to be assessed by medical professionals.
His erratic behaviour included saying he wanted to protect all animals and he had ‘lost his unicorn’.
And an inspector reviewing his detention stated the ‘detained person presents a serious risk to public if released’.
Police at a home in Exeter where the bodies of Dick and Roger Carter were found in February
The defendant also confirmed he had been sectioned twice previously and was not currently taking medication.
At 6.30pm that day he was seen by Forensic Medical Examiner and he was spitting and behaving aggressively to police.
The doctor said just before 7pm that as he was not suicidal or psychotic or presenting acute mental health illness there was no need for a full mental health assessment at that time.
But the doctor did recommended that the next morning Lewis-Ranwell should be seen by a mental health nurse before being released from custody – but this never happened.
While in custody that evening it is agreed that Lewis-Ranwell continued to exhibit bizarre and sometime aggressive behaviour to police.
This included asking for water and when it arrived throwing it at the officer and he failed to engage with his appropriate adult.
During his time in custody, Lewis-Ranwell exhibited ‘bizarre behaviours’ and at 10pm, his mother Jill Lewis-Ranwell phoned police.
Richard Smith QC, reading from the agreed facts in the case, told jurors: ‘Mrs Lewis-Ranwell, his mother, rang asking that the officer in the case contact her as ‘she has grave concerns should he be released’.’
The next day he was released from custody with bail conditions not to visit farmland in the area without being seen by a mental health nurse.
At around 11am Lewis-Ranwell then hailed a taxi driver to take him to Haldon Hill in Exeter and handed over a 100 Euro note as payment.
The driver Johnson Joseph said in a statement read to the jury: ‘He made me feel very scared. He came across as some sort of mental health patient.’
Mr Joseph said the defendant sat in the passenger seat and asked him where he could buy marijuana.
The cab driver said he did not know and the pair then shared a journey for about 30 minutes during which the driver said he became increasingly frightened by Lewis-Ranwell’s behaviour.
Lewis-Ranwell, of Croyde, Devon, then grabbed some rosary beads from the mirror and jumped into the back seat behind the driver.
Mr Joseph added: ‘This made me feel very scared as I thought he was going to strangle me with it.’
Just as the car approached the train station in Copplestone they stopped behind a bus. Lewis-Ranwell got out and said he was going to catch the replacement bus service. The driver never saw him again.
The defendant then arrived at Exeter St David’s and came across a run-down property at Bonhay Road owned by Mr Payne.
The prosecution say the defendant then took up hammer bludgeoned Mr Payne to death with blows to the head.
He later beat both brothers to death with blows to the head from a spade.
The prosecution and defence agree the defendant has a partial defence of diminished responsibility. It means the defendant has some responsibility for what happened.
The prosecution say Lewis-Ranwell bears some responsibility for what he did. They do not agree he was legally insane at the time of the killings.
The trial continues.