Published: 17:01, 02 December 2019
| Updated: 07:26, 03 December 2019
By Paul Greaves
A former Kent public schoolboy has been cleared of murdering three elderly men he wrongly believed to be part of a paedophile ring on the grounds he was insane.
Alexander Lewis-Ranwell was found not guilty of triple murder by a jury due to the deluded state of mind he was in at the time of the attacks.
Tragic Anthony Payne, 80, was battered to death with a hammer and twins Dick and Roger Carter, both 84, died after being hit with a spade.
Lewis-Ranwell attended Sevenoaks Preparatory School, a co-educational, day preparatory school for 385 pupils aged two to 13 years old, before moving to Maidstone's day and boarding Sutton Valence School in 2002. He left two years later.
The 28-year-old was suffering from a severe mental illness at the time of the killings and later told doctors he thought he was uncovering a paedophile ring.
A cannabis user, he experienced multiple delusions, including that he was rescuing a missing girl, and that he was working as an undercover investigator for the police.
Exeter Crown Court heard he suffered a disturbed and violent paranoia and the belief that police were persecuting him.
The defence had set out to prove Lewis-Ranwell was so mentally ill that at the time of the killings he did not know what he was doing was wrong.
The Crown Prosecution Service accepted he was seriously ill, but said he should bare some criminal responsibility for the killings.
But the jury took just over six hours to find the defendant not guilty on three counts of murder by reason of insanity.
Lewis-Ranwell, who admitted killing the three men, will now be subject to a hospital order, the judge said.
The trial at Exeter Crown Court heard Lewis-Ranwell had been released from police custody on February 10, just three hours before he embarked on the killing spree. He was in custody after attacking another pensioner with a saw.
Lewis-Ranwell, who was released without a mental health assessment, arrived in Exeter, Devon, and came across a note on the front door of his first victim, Mr Payne.
CCTV showed him being let in to the property where he used a hammer to kill the pensioner.
Two-and-half hours later Lewis-Ranwell came across the home of the Carter twins.
He used a spade to kill both men under the same mistaken belief he was working undercover for the police searching for a missing girl.
The jury heard that being allowed to go by the police gave him the belief he was exposing a chilling network of deadly child abusers similar to that of Rose and Fred West.
Mrs Justice May told the jury this was a "disturbing case" that left three people dead.
Following the verdict, Mr Payne's family said: "Anthony led a quiet life, troubling no one. He had strong friendships and a family, who cared for him."
The twins' family added: “They were quiet and kind gentlemen who, before retirement, spent their working lives with the family mushroom business."
Devon and Cornwall Police has also defended its handling of Lewis-Ranwell after his arrests despite the court finding him not guilty of murder due to insanity.
During his time in police custody, officers said they were continually engaged with mental health services and partner agencies.
They said health care staff were requested to assess Lewis-Ranwell and during his time in custody, the defendant had a number of interactions with five different health care professionals who were involved in providing guidance and professional assessment.
As a result it was agreed that he was fit to be detained and interviewed and confirmed that he did not need a full mental health act assessment.