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1st Jul, 2022

Bethany Hill murder trial - jury hears of accused's history of mental illness

Correspondent 19th Jan, 2017

A YOUNG man said to have ‘slaughtered’ Bethany Hill by slashing her neck was suffering from diminished responsibility at the time because of a mental illness, a psychiatrist believes.

But Dr Nicholas Kennedy has conceded at Warwick Crown Court that his opinion was dependent upon Jack Williams having told the truth when he carried out his assessment of him.

Williams, 21, and Kayleigh Woods, 23, have pleaded not guilty to Beth’s murder in February last year at Woods’s flat in Hertford Road, Stratford, where all three were living at the time.

Woods, in her evidence, has blamed Williams alone for the alleged ‘sadistic killing,’ and denied playing any part in it.

Michael Duck QC, for Williams, said he did not plan to call Williams to give evidence. He then called consultant forensic psychiatrist Dr Kennedy who prepared a report on Williams after seeing him in custody and having seen the papers in the case and Williams’ medical records.

Williams told him he was on an anti-psychotic medication, at a dose which Dr Kennedy said was at the lower end of what would be used to treat psychosis, and ‘happy pills.’

“Psychosis is a serious mental illness where the sufferer loses some touch with reality and will have hallucinations and see or hear things which are not really happening.

“As in this case, they may have features of dissociation. It may also manifest itself as a situation where a person says they can see what is going on, but feeling detached from it and having no control, as if in a film in which he was taking part.”

Dr Kennedy went into reports on Williams’s mental health going back to when he was a child and was described as having ‘special needs and query hyperactive,’ before being diagnosed as suffering from ADHD and being treated with medication.

In May 2015 Williams had been referred to a psychological therapies team to whom he described worries of feelings of anger, which had become worse, and his concern that he may hurt someone.

Dr Kennedy said: “He described the trigger as being anything that goes wrong or a thing that does not go to plan. He said he had thoughts of anger towards other people and had thoughts of harming them.

“He said he enjoyed seeing blood and cutting things, and he described a situation where he caught a rat in his property and he enjoyed killing it and cutting it and seeing blood.

“He said he had blacked out due to anger and only knew about his aggression when others told him.”

Williams’s GP saw him with Woods, who spoke of him having ‘dark morbid thoughts, and an obsession with the occult,’ and Williams said he had been smoking ‘huge amounts of weed’ but had stopped over fears for his mental health.

In October 2015 Williams was detained under the Mental Health Act for assessment following an incident when he told Woods to run, and had then repeatedly stabbed the door of the bathroom where she had taken refuge.

The conclusion was of a paranoid element which may have been induced by cannabis, and Williams, who said he had not smoked any for two months, had described hearing his own voice saying ‘you need to cut her up’.

He was seen several more times over the next two months, and his medication was increased.

But in December he disclosed he had stopped taking the medication and had begun smoking cannabis on a daily basis again – yet was discharged by Coventry mental health services.

And Dr Kennedy commented: “If I was seeing him, I would have considered that he had definitely had a psychotic episode and that he should be refereed to early intervention.”

Asked about Williams being said to have talked to other inmates while on remand about trying to cut Beth’s head off, Dr Kennedy said Williams had not said that to him, and it was ‘inconsistent with my analysis of the case.’

Questioned by prosecutor Stephen Linehan QC, he agreed his conclusion was dependent on Williams having told the truth.

Mr Linehan put to him: “If this girl was bound by her wrists and feet with duct tape and was cut over the back of her neck, and the attack took place over a considerable period of time, then that is nothing to do with what you have been talking about.” And Dr Kennedy conceded: “It would not apply.”

Mr Linehan commented that if Williams had been able to tell people in prison what had happened, the core of his account that he had had a blackout and could not remember what happened was ‘worthless.’

The trial continues.

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