Published: 12:05, 23 March 2018
| Updated: 13:56, 23 March 2018
A pensioner suffering from dementia who repeatedly stabbed an elderly bed-bound woman in the face at a care home has been detained under a hospital order.
Dennis Latter inflicted 49 wounds with a blunt table knife on 90-year-old Betty Wood at Kingsfield Care Home in Jubilee Way, Faversham.
A judge did not make the order under the Mental Health Act indefinitely as his mental and physical condition had deteriorated and he would be unable to leave the hospital where he is being treated.
Latter, then 79, went into the victim’s room and stabbed her as she lay in her bed.
“The attack only ended when Mr Latter was interrupted and restrained by care home staff,” prosecutor Simon Taylor told Maidstone Crown Court.
The victim, who has since died, had been at the home since 2011, while Latter only arrived just over a month before the attack on December 30 2016.
He had vascular dementia but was “independently mobile”, while Mrs Wood was dependent on staff for her everyday needs.
They had rooms opposite each other on the first floor of the home.
At about 9am he entered her room and slashed at her face, including her eyelids and lips.
Care workers rushed to the room after hearing choking noises. They saw Latter was repeatedly thrusting his hand down on the victim’s head.
“Effectively, he was caught in the act,” said Mr Taylor. “He was then overpowered and taken back to his room while the police were called.”
Mrs Wood was treated for her injuries in the William Harvey Hospital in Ashford for 11 days.
After his arrest, Latter seemed confused at times, making comments like: “I rearranged his face.”
Asked what he meant, he replied: “...with a sharp implement, probably why I am here.” He had become paranoid about people stealing his possessions.
When charged, he asked: “Who is Betty Wood? As you would say, I just thought I’d injured Mr Anonymous.”
"Mrs Wood’s family are understandably distressed that their mother’s last years should have been affected by this horrifying attack..." - Judge Adele Williams
Mr Taylor said Latter, who was not present in court, was unfit to stand trial on a charge of attempted murder and an alternative of wounding with intent.
A jury of eight men and four women retired for less than 10 minutes before deciding Latter, now 80, “did the act”.
Mr Taylor said at the sentencing hearing today that Mrs Wood died on November 22 last year.
Her daughter described in a victim statement the shock of seeing he mother in pain and distress after the attack.
Her wounds healed well, she said, but her mental condition deteriorated. She became jumpy and drawn and her appetite decreased. She would flinch when anybody went near her face and had a wide-eyed scared look.
“Mrs Wood’s family are understandably distressed that their mother’s last years should have been affected by this horrifying attack in a care home where they had every expectation she would be safe,” said Judge Adele Williams.
“I am sure their distress has been made worse by the fact these proceedings have been protracted but that is because of the absolute necessity the defendant’s mental state should be properly assessed and investigated.
“The court has been concerned to ensure the defendant is unable to pose a risk in the future to anyone.”
Latter suffered from a persecutory paranoid delusional condition and had continued to justify his actions by claiming his possessions had been taken and he had been attacked.
The judge said of the victim: “I have seen photographs of her injuries, which show the extent of them, and makes distressing viewing.”
She added: “If the defendant was not suffering from a psychiatric condition he would undoubtedly now be receiving a long prison sentence.
“But once found to be under a disability, the court’s powers are restricted to a psychiatric disposal.”