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Former Ash nurse Ian Bartlett detained under Mental Health Act after stabbing young shop worker in attack at Welcome store

By Paul Hooper

A former nurse suffering from a mental illness stabbed a young Ash shop assistant in the thigh and then told police: "Mr Fox told me to do it!"

Ian Bartlett, 62, had been loitering outside the Welcome store where 21-year-old Sophie O'Brien was working in January.

He then grabbed the terrified assistant, telling her: "I'm sorry", before she spotted an eight-inch steak knife in his hand.

Sophie O’Brien was stabbed at the Welcome shop in Ash

Sophie O’Brien was stabbed at the Welcome shop in Ash

Ms O'Brien then fled into a warehouse, shouting for help from store manager Chris Green.

Canterbury Crown Court heard how it was only then she realised there was blood coming from a gaping wound.

Courageously, Mr Green then grabbed a metal cage used for moving stock around the shop to keep Bartlett away from his victim.

Prosecutor Donna East told how he ordered Bartlett to hand over his weapon – and Ms O'Brien was then flown to hospital for treatment.

Now Bartlett, of Shipyard, Ash, has been detained under the Mental Health Act after admitting wounding with intent.

Two psychiatrists reported that at the time of the terrifying attack, the father-of-two had been suffering from a serious depressive illness with paranoid symptoms.

Police outside the Welcome store in Ash. Picture Tony Flashman

Police outside the Welcome store in Ash. Picture: Tony Flashman

His barrister John O'Higgins said: "He has lived a blameless life and his profession was a nurse.

"Father-of-two and a grandfather - an example of how mental illness can inflict the most respectable members of society."

Ms East said Ms O'Brien had begun work at 7am and had been wearing her uniform and "significantly" a black fleece and black bodywarmer.

"At 8am she was near the entrance stocking the shelves and became aware of a male hanging around the front of the store for five minutes," she said. 

"She did notice that it appeared he was watching her and all of a sudden she was aware he was standing next to her.

"He put his arm around her shoulder and pulled her in around him tightly so she couldn't move. He then said: 'I'm sorry'.

"He then let go and he showed her a black-handled steak knife. Sophie then ran into the warehouse screaming: 'Help!'

Officers descended on the street outside the Ash store. Picture Tony Flashman

Officers descended on the street outside the Ash store. Picture: Tony Flashman

As Bartlett followed, the shop assistant shouted to her manager: "Get him away from me... he's stabbed me."

As Mr Green used the metal cage to keep Bartlett away, the defendant shouted: "Call the police, call the police."

The manager - who recognised Bartlett as a customer – then asked him to hand over the weapon, which he did.

Ms O'Brien said Bartlett had not said a word to her before the stabbing. She was given five stitches and kept in hospital overnight, the court heard.

The prosecutor said Bartlett then stayed near the entrance until police officers arrived and told them "Mr Fox" told him to do it.

"Given his mental state when he was arrested he wasn't interviewed by police," added the prosecutor.

Since then, the court heard, he has responded to mental health treatment and told his barrister he was grateful his victim was not more seriously injured.

Judge Adele Williams at Canterbury Crown Court

Judge Adele Williams at Canterbury Crown Court

Judge Adele Williams passed a sentence under the Mental Health Act that means Bartlett remains at a secure unit until doctors think it is safe for him to be released.

She told him: "You committed a very serious offence indeed. I have no doubt she was caused enormous distress and found the whole incident very traumatic.

"Happily her wound was dealt with and there should be no lasting physical damage, but I have no doubt the trauma will live with her for many years.

"But at the time of you committing this offence you were suffering from serious depressive illness which led to paranoid symptoms – evidenced by the fact you told police that Mr Fox had told you to do it."


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