A paranoid schizophrenic who killed three pensioners in the space of hours has been found not guilty of murder by reason of insanity.
Alexander Lewis-Ranwell, 28, battered to death 80-year-old Anthony Payne and twins Dick and Roger Carter, 84, in frenzied attacks in February.
In a trial at Exeter Crown Court, the jury had to decide whether Lewis-Ranwell, who was said to be suffering from delusions at the time, “did not know it was against the law” to kill the three men.
Before returning its verdict, the jury gave a note to the judge raising concerns about the “state of psychiatric services in the county of Devon and the failings in care in Alexander Lewis-Ranwell’s case”.
The court heard Lewis-Ranwell had been arrested twice in the days before the killings.
He later told a psychiatrist at Broadmoor secure hospital: “I cannot believe no-one helped me – they let me out twice when I was unwell.”
The former scaffolder had been suffering from paranoid schizophrenia and gripped by delusions about saving young girls from a paedophile ring, the court heard.
One doctor said the defendant was living in a “very nightmarish world” and believed he had a “moral justification” for the killings because he was rescuing people.
Lewis-Ranwell also thought the police had “sanctioned his actions” because they had twice released him from custody.
Members of the public had also reported to police the worrying behaviour of Lewis-Ranwell in the hours around the deaths of the three men.
Shop staff had noticed him “rambling about random things”, while a taxi driver who gave him a lift told how he feared for his life because of Lewis-Ranwell’s “irrational” behaviour.
The “whirlwind of destruction” took place three hours apart at two houses just a mile-and-a-half away from each other in Exeter.
Three psychiatrists agreed Lewis-Ranwell was insane at the time he battered Payne with a hammer and bludgeoned the Carter twins to death with a shovel.
But the prosecution argued the defendant bore some responsibility for what happened.
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