Published: 19:44, 03 December 2019
| Updated: 19:46, 03 December 2019
By Rachel Smith
A mental health patient slashed his doting father’s throat days after being wrongly released from a high security mental health unit in Kent - 350 miles from home.
Jonathan Macmillan, 28, believed his dad John was possessed by the devil when he stabbed him five times in the chest, and inflicted a 23cm wound to his neck, severing major arteries and fracturing his spine.
A masonic handbook was found in the bedroom, with notes on a page referencing “a cut across the throat and the tongue cut out” for anyone who spilled secrets.
Macmillan, of Provincial Street, Barrow, had taken steps to cover his tracks - walking past CCTV cameras to create an alibi and washing the small kitchen knife.
But Dr Lucy Bacon, a forensic psychiatrist working at Guild Lodge near Preston, where Macmillan has remained since the offence, said: “He was working to a different reality to other people’s.”
Macmillan has now been locked up indefinitely after a judge said he was “clearly a very, very dangerous man.”
Preston Crown Court heard Macmillan was being treated in the psychiatric intensive care unit at the Cygnet hospital in Maidstone after being assessed as being a high risk to the public in May 2019.
But less than three weeks after he arrived, a psychiatrist at the unit reassessed him as being low risk and sent him home to Barrow.
His father told friends at the local boatyard he feared his son had been released too soon and community mental health worker Lauren Wray tried to contact the Cygnet Unit to express her concerns about the release.
On June 18, Macmillan spent some of the afternoon with his father and returned to the house in Provincial Street at around 5.15pm.
His mother Glenys Hird called round at 6.30pm to hear raised voices from inside.
Macmillan was on the phone to the emergency services, telling them “there’s murderers around” as he used his T-shirt to stem the blood from his father’s neck.
He claimed he had returned home to find his father seriously injured in the hallway.
But five days later, Macmillan confessed to killing his father, saying he believed he and others were able to abuse and manipulate him from afar.
Following his arrest he was transferred to Guild Lodge, a secure unit to the north of Preston.
Dr Bacon told the court: “I think Mr Macmillan had thoughts about killing his father before hand. Whether he had planned it or not there had certainly been thoughts about it and afterwards he carried out acts to try and cover it up.
“His reasons for covering it up were completely delusional. He was working to a different reality to other people’s. He wouldn’t have carried out the killing if he hadn’t been ill.”
Macmillan pleaded guilty to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility and appeared at Preston Crown Court to be sentenced.
The Honorary Recorder of Preston Judge Mark Brown said: “There was only one driver for this killing and that was his mental health and delusional beliefs, and this was very very profound.
"He should never, ever have been discharged from hospital in Kent, certainly not into the community..." Judge Mark Brown
“The tragedy of this situation is that he was in that position in the first place. He should never, ever have been discharged from hospital in Kent, certainly not into the community.”
Dr Stephen Barlow, a psychiatrist working at HMP Preston who assessed Macmillan, said: “Looking at the case as a whole, I struggle to understand the decision of the consultant in Kent, who does not have ongoing responsibility for his ongoing care in his local area to simply discharge him from hospital, rather than transfer him back to hospital.
“He could have transferred him back to Barrow. He could have said he no longer required a locked environment but he could have been transferred back to an open ward.”
Judge Brown said: “It follows that the killing occurred when you (Macmillan) should have been detained in hospital. You should never have been released a month early.
“It also gives rise to serious questions about the risk assessment that you were low risk which proved to be flawed.”
Dr Barlow and Dr Bacon agreed Macmillan is likely to need lifelong care for his condition and to be detained ‘for a long time’ to manage the risk to the public.
Judge Brown ordered Macmillan to be detained in a secure hospital until he is deemed safe for release.
A review into the case is now underway with NHS England.
Speaking after the hearing, John's brother Tony Macmillan said: "All the family are extremely heartbroken with all the events of the past few months and would like to pay tribute to our loving brother uncle and great friend John, he will be missed by all the family and the Barrow community of friends who knew John.
“We would like to thank all of the team involved in this very difficult case and would like to especially thank the FLO team for their compassion in dealing with this very difficult family tragedy, we would also like to thank all the friends who have made our lives a bit easier with their kind words.
"All the family are extremely heartbroken with all the events of the past few months and would like to pay tribute to our loving brother uncle and great friend John..."
“Whilst realising the errors made by the mental health service have been catastrophic nothing can turn the clock back, we can only hope this never happens to any other family and lessons can be learned.
“Maybe now we can try and resume some sort of normal life again albeit without our oldest brother and best friend. Rest in peace, John Macmillan.”
John’s niece Julie said: "To anyone that crossed paths with John - whether it be a game of snooker, a pint, a taxi ride or free ride where he refused any payment out of the kindness of his heart - you’ll know he was a good man, he loved a good story and you knew if you got in a taxi with him you’d be getting one.
"John had no expectations and just got on with his life obliviously and happy to help others- you’ll be missed Uncle John."
A hospital spokesman said: “We would like to begin by offering our sincere condolences to the family at this very sad time.
“Now that active court proceedings are over, we are able to confirm that we will be cooperating fully with any further inquiry as required.
“We would of course not wish to prejudice the outcome of any such inquiry, and so for that reason will not be commenting further except to say that our thoughts remain with all those affected.”
A spokesman for NHS North West added: “We would like to extend our condolences to the victim’s family, at what must be an extremely difficult time for them.
"Working alongside the local Cumbria Community Safety Partnership, we have commissioned an Independent Investigation which will incorporate the requirements of a Domestic Homicide review.
"This is in its very early stages.We have been in touch with the family and will continue to keep them updated as the review progresses.”
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