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Exeter park killer guilty of murder

Cameron Davis, 31, will be sentenced for murder on Thursday (image courtesy: D&C Police)

Cameron Davis, 31, had only admitted manslaughter

A man who stabbed a grandmother to death in an Exeter park in broad daylight has been found guilty of murder.

Cameron Davis, 31, who was living in temporary accommodation on Exeter Road in Exmouth, was convicted by a jury at Exeter Crown Court for murdering 74-year-old Lorna England as she walked home from a shop.

The court heard how on Saturday 18 February last year, Ms England had been walking through Ludwell Valley Park when she was randomly and brutally attacked by Davis, a total stranger.

Witnesses revealed how Davis and his victim had been seen on a pathway together in what looked like a struggle before she fell to the ground. A woman nearby approached the area and asked Davis what had happened. He told her that Ms England must have had a fit.

He left the scene with Ms England’s phone, which was later retrieved in the park.

While the woman tended to his victim, she dialled 999 and shouted for help. Members of the public who were in the park at the time came to her aid as they tried, in vain, to save her. She died at the scene.

Police immediately launched a manhunt while extensive CCTV analysis identified Davis as the suspect and showed him coming out of a sports hall just before the attack.

At around 9.30pm, Davis was recognised by Exeter City Council CCTV operatives less than two miles away on Exeter High Street. Armed response officers swooped in and he was arrested and subsequently charged with Lorna England’s murder.

Investigators discovered that just two hours before the murder, Davis had bought vodka, cigarettes, and a large kitchen knife from a nearby store. The knife was identified as the murder weapon and was later discovered in a nearby stream.

Detectives were able to piece together Davis’s movements prior to, during and after the attack by trawling through footage which was shown to the jury as part of the two-week trial.

On the morning of the attack, Davis had attended the Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital where he was assessed by mental health teams and later discharged. CCTV footage shows him leaving the hospital premises and heading to local shops before sitting behind Wonford Sports Centre where he drank vodka before the attack.

Footage later showed him emerging from the crime scene and taking off his jumper before dumping it in an attempt to alter his appearance. He was also captured on mobile phone footage gatecrashing a private party and drinking with strangers in a pub before he was apprehended.

Davis denied murder, claiming he had been mentally ill, pleading instead guilty to manslaughter by diminished responsibility at an earlier hearing. However, the investigation and prosecution teams did not accept this plea and pursued a murder conviction.

During the trial at Exeter Crown Court, the jury heard from several medical experts, including Dr John Sandford, who assessed Davis twice shortly after the killing and told the jury that in his opinion: “Cameron Davis doesn’t have a severe mental illness” and was not mentally ill at the time of the offence.

'Ferocious assault'

Senior Investigating Officer Detective Inspector Dave Egan from the Major Crime Investigation Team said: "This was a brutal assault on an innocent woman. For reasons known only to Davis, he launched this unprovoked attack on Lorna as she walked home on a Saturday afternoon.

“His pleas to manslaughter were not accepted by the team and we are pleased that the jury reached this verdict today. Davis has had several psychiatric reports, two of which failed to support that he was suffering from mental health-related psychosis, a defence he claimed.

“In reality, Davis went out that afternoon intent on causing someone harm.

"Our belief is that it could have been anyone that he attacked that day – but tragically for Lorna, and all who knew and loved her, it was her that he chose and only he will ever truly know the reason why."

Det Insp Egan continued: "He stabbed her multiple times in a ferocious assault - inflicting two knife wounds, one of which proved fatal. Lorna also received several defence wounds in the incident, showing that she had fought for her life.

"Lorna had never met Davis before that day and had no personal connection to him - she was a complete stranger to him, merely in the same place as Davis when he decided to launch this horrific attack.

"She should have been safe and could never have foreseen what was about to happen.

"It is clear from speaking to Lorna’s family that she was very much loved, and her death has left a huge void in the lives of all who knew her. My heartfelt sympathies go out to the family and friends of Lorna who have shown nothing but courage and dignity throughout this trial.”

Exeter, East and Mid Devon Commander Superintendent Antony Hart said: “Davis’s actions that afternoon sent shockwaves through our community. Although an extremely rare incident, it understandably caused huge concern amongst residents as they questioned how something so awful could have happened to a local grandmother.

In the immediate aftermath and manhunt, and throughout the investigation, the community has been incredible in coming forward with information which not only assisted with the arrest of Davis but helped to secure his conviction. For this support, I would like to say thank you.

This was a savage attack against an entirely innocent woman who had no way of defending herself. Our thoughts will always remain with Lorna’s family and friends.”

Devon and Cornwall Police’s knife crime lead, A/Superintendent Steve Fleetwood said: “This tragedy shows the enormous impact that knife crime has had on a family, who on the 18 February 2023 tragically lost a wife, mother, grandmother and sister.

“When Cameron Davis bought the knife that day - he intended to do harm with it.

“We are doing all that we can to raise awareness about the dangers of carrying knives. It’s important that people know that it is illegal to carry a knife without good reason and police have the power to stop and search people if we believe them to be armed."

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