Schizophrenic who thought he was Hitler jailed for stabbing his mother

Schizophrenic who thought he was Hitler jailed for stabbing his mother

Schizophrenic who thought he was Adolf Hitler is jailed for life for stabbing his mother to death just days after he was sent home from a mental health unit without seeing a doctor

  • Lee Sowerby murdered his mother Mary Annie Sowerby at her home in Cumbria
  • Six days earlier Sowerby was not allowed to see a doctor despite hearing voices
  • On the morning of January 22, he stabbed his mother ‘a multiplicity of times’
  • He was sentenced to life and a minimum term of 11 years at Preston Crown Court

Lee Sowerby (pictured) has been jailed for life for murdering his mother Mary Annie

A paranoid schizophrenic who stabbed his mother to death days after he was sent home from a mental health unit without seeing a doctor has been jailed for life.

Lee Sowerby, 45, murdered his mother Mary Annie Sowerby, 69, ‘with the largest kitchen knife possible’ at her home in Dearham, Cumbria, on January 22.

A judge said it was ‘astonishing’ that Sowerby was not allowed to see a doctor six days before the killing when his father, Leonard, took him to a health facility in Workington and pleaded he be put back on medication.

Preston Crown Court heard Sowerby was hearing voices and experiencing visual hallucinations and that he was using alcohol and cannabis, but he was sent home.

On the morning of January 22, while his father popped out to run an errand, he stabbed his mother ‘a multiplicity of times’ to the front and back of the chest and also her neck, left shoulder, both arms and left leg. 

Sowerby, who had a lengthy history of mental illness and even believed he was Adolf Hitler, was first sent to hospital after an armed robbery at a bank in 1996.

He was once again hospitalised following an incident in 2008 in which he attempted to stab his brother’s girlfriend.

Sowerby spent 18 months in hospital before he was released into the community with the prospect of being recalled to hospital if he breached any imposed conditions.

However, in June 2012 he received an absolute discharge from that hospital order which Judge Brown described as ‘absolutely astonishing’.

On the morning of January 22, while his father Lennard (right) popped out to run an errand, Sowerby stabbed his mother Mary Annie (left) ‘a multiplicity of times’

Sentencing Sowerby to life and a minimum term of 11 years, Judge Brown said: ‘Had the restrictions order not been absolutely discharged in 2012, I doubt very much this killing would have happened because he would have been recalled to hospital far sooner and ought to have been detained in hospital. 

A week before the killing, the court heard two police officers who knew Sowerby from previous dealings saw him walking along a country road in the middle of the night in dark clothing with his dog.

Health trust probe into why killer was given hospital discharge

A health trust is carrying out an internal investigation after a paranoid schizophrenic killed his mother following his discharge from hospital care.

Lee Sowerby, 45, had already received two hospital orders from the courts before he stabbed to death his mother, Mary Annie Sowerby, 69, at her home in the village of Dearham, Cumbria, in January.

Sentencing him to life with a minimum term of 11 years at Preston Crown Court on Wednesday, Honorary Recorder of Preston, Judge Mark Brown QC said he doubted the killing would have happened if Sowerby had not received an absolute discharge from a hospital order in 2012.

He also said it was ‘astonishing’ the defendant was not allowed to see a doctor six days before the killing, when his father Leonard took him to a community mental health facility in Workington and pleaded he be put back on medication.

A spokeswoman for Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust expressed sympathies to the family and friends of Mrs Sowerby.

She said: ‘Following the tragic death of Mrs Sowerby we launched an internal investigation, which is still ongoing, and we were fully co-operative with the police investigation.

‘Once concluded, findings will be shared with the family and the coroner.

‘We are committed to providing the best possible service that we can for our patients and have already started to implement learning from this tragic event and will continue to do so across mental health services.’

Sowerby, who had a lengthy history of mental illness, was first sent to hospital after an armed robbery at a bank and causing a bomb hoax in 1996 – and then again following an incident in 2008 in which he attempted to stab his brother’s girlfriend.

On Wednesday, he pleaded guilty to manslaughter by reason of diminished responsibility. His not guilty plea to murder was accepted by the Crown.

Tim Evans, prosecuting, said Sowerby’s last hospital admission was in March 2018 on an informal basis following an incident in which he was carrying knives.

He was released the following month, but his mental health deteriorated when he stopped taking his prescribed medication and also began drinking alcohol and taking drugs. 

He told the officers he was struggling with his mental health and was walking seven miles from his home in Workington to his parents, but the officers thought he was acting rationally and gave him a lift.

While in early January, Sowerby attended Workington police station wanting to confess to a murder in a previous life and believing he was Adolf Hitler.

On Wednesday, Sowerby pleaded guilty to manslaughter by reason of diminished responsibility. His not guilty plea to murder was accepted by the Crown.

Tim Evans, prosecuting, said Sowerby’s last hospital admission was in March 2018 on an informal basis following an incident where he was carrying knives.

He was released the following month, but his mental health deteriorated when he stopped taking his prescribed medication and also began drinking alcohol and taking drugs.

In October 2018, the mental health team visited his home address and noted there was a knife visible in his living room – which he said was for his own protection from drug dealers. 

Mr Evans said that the family could not have been more supportive of the defendant and the difficulties he faced.

Sowerby’s brother Daniel stated: ‘One of the hardest things is that my mam was an amazing grandmother and was always there for my kids.

‘The love and time my mam gave to Lee was unquestionable and the fact that he has killed her is a tragedy and the most bitter pill to swallow.’

The court was told Leonard Sowerby felt the family had been ‘badly let down’ by local mental health services – a comment which the judge said ‘appeared to have some justification’.

Judge Brown told Sowerby: ‘The very many injuries demonstrated that this was a brutal and frenzied attack in which a vulnerable woman lost her life in the most appalling of circumstances.

‘The bitter irony is that your mother was devoted to you over the years and had done her best for you. She supported you in every way possible.

‘There is no doubt you are extremely dangerous. You have received hospital restriction orders which have had a somewhat limited effect and do not appear to have afforded the public proper protection.

‘In my judgment, your level of culpability for the killing was high. You allowed the schizophrenia to deteriorate by refusing to take medication and also by using illicit drugs and alcohol.’

Sowerby will start his sentence in a secure hospital in Middlesbrough and will be returned to prison once he is deemed fit for release.

Judge Brown stressed Sowerby would only be freed if the Parole Board was satisfied he no longer poses a risk to the public.

He told the defendant: ‘All the evidence suggests you are likely to be detained in a hospital or a prison for a very long time indeed.’

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