Sharon Lees has called for a public apology from Hywel Dda health board after her son, David Fleet, stabbed a man to death due to “voices in his head” ten days after being released from a psychiatric unit. Lees claims she warned staff that her son was too unwell for release, and the tragedy “could [and] should have been prevented.” The health board has stated that confidential information prevents them from publishing their report on the matter.
David Fleet, who grew up in Borth, Ceredigion, was diagnosed with autism at 15 years old. As he got older, his mental health deteriorated, and he began to experience psychosis. Fleet was detained under the Mental Health Act in October 2018 but was released four months later to be treated at home.
On February 28, 2019, Fleet left his home with a knife and attacked Lewis Stone, who later died in hospital. Fleet had never met Stone before the incident. Fleet pleaded guilty to manslaughter due to diminished responsibility and was detained indefinitely in a secure psychiatric unit on September 16, 2019.
An internal health board report seen by BBC Wales Investigates reveals that three weeks before the stabbing, a doctor had warned that Fleet was not ready for release due to his “worsening mental state” and the risks he posed with knives. However, he was sent home without an updated risk assessment, and staff failed to contact him the day before the attack due to their workload. Fleet also did not receive a dose of his anti-psychotic medication.
Between 2010 and 2020, 11% of homicide offenders in the UK were under the care of mental health services, according to studies by the University of Manchester. While the overall homicide rate in England and Wales has fallen since 2008, the percentage of homicides carried out by people with schizophrenia has increased. Researchers have identified drug and alcohol misuse as factors that elevate risk.
Lord Alex Carlile, a former MP and barrister with extensive experience in homicide cases, has criticized the “failure” to share information in Fleet’s case. He believes the Welsh government should have commissioned independent reviews into other mental health homicides during this time, calling it a “seven-year scandal.”
The Welsh government has not commissioned independent mental health homicide reviews since 2016, claiming that health boards have been “thorough” when investigating their cases. However, the government has admitted that the wider review system needs to change to ensure better “communication and coordination” and is introducing the Single Unified Safeguarding Review.
Sharon Lees believes her son was failed by mental health services, leaving two families “devastated.” She is now demanding a public apology from the health board for her son and Mr Stone’s family, stating that the health board’s failure led to the tragedy.
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