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NOT GUILTY: Exeter killer is insane

Alexander Lewis-Ranwell is subject to hospital order

Paranoid schizophrenic bludgeoned three pensioners

A paranoid schizophrenic who had been suffering delusions in the period leading up to attacks that left three Exeter pensioners dead, did not commit murder, according to a jury at the city's crown court, who've found him not guilty of the charge because of his insanity.

Twenty-eight-year-old Alexander Lewis-Ranwell, from Croyde, had been in police custody twice in the 48 hours before the killings in February, but had been released. He went on to attack 80-year-old Anthony Payne with a hammer in his home in Bonhay Road before heading to Cowick Lane where he then hit 84-year-old twins Dick and Roger Carter with a garden spade. 

On Monday (2nd December), the trial at Exeter Crown Court came to an end with verdicts of not guilty. The jury accepted defence claims that Mr Lewis-Ranwell did not know at the time of his actions that it was against the law to kill the men. 

He will now be detained in a secure hospital.

Devon and Cornwall Police's Head of Major Crime Detective Superintendent Mike West says: “We acknowledge the decision made by the jury and the sentence given by the judge. It is a reflection of the unique and complex nature of this case.

“These were unprovoked attacks on three innocent victims and I pay tribute to the men who lost their lives. Antony Payne and Dick & Roger Carter were gentlemen in their 80’s who were killed, by a stranger, in their own homes. Their families, friends and neighbours have supported our investigation team throughout the period since their deaths were reported. Our thoughts remain with the families as they continue to come to terms with the tragic events which took place. They also remain with those who were affected by his acts of violence in the days leading up to his arrest.

“During his time in custody, prior to the deaths, 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 indeed confirmed that he did not need a full mental health act assessment.

“We fully accept our responsibilities to look after those detained in our custody units, however it is unreasonable to suggest that police officers or staff, in these circumstances, should have over-ridden decisions made by those who are trained, qualified and skilled in health care."

Following the conclusion of the trial at Exeter Crown Court yesterday, the families of the three victims have paid the following tributes.

The family of Anthony Payne, paid the following tribute: 

“Anthony led a quiet life, troubling no one. He had strong friendships and a family, who cared for him.

“We could not have foreseen the events of the 10th February, 2019 and we are still profoundly shocked.

“We are hoping that the trial gives answers to questions about what happened to these three gentle, kind and caring gentlemen.

“We would also like to thank the Police Family liaison Team for their support, who became involved when we learnt of Anthony’s unexpected death. Their support has continued during the Police investigation of the shocking circumstances of how Anthony died.”

The family of Dick and Roger Carter, paid the following tribute:

The family of 84-year-old twins Dick and Roger Carter, said: “Dick and Roger Carter were born, lived their lives and died at the house in Cowick Lane. They were quiet and kind gentlemen who, before retirement, spent their working lives with the family mushroom business.

“They both loved the outdoors, wildlife and birdwatching. They shared an enthusiasm for walking in both the Southwest and Scotland often in the company of the family’s Boxer dogs.

“This case has focussed on the mental health of the defendant. However, we must not forget the victims of these crimes. Vulnerable elderly gentlemen, who were subjected to vicious, violent, unprovoked assaults which led to their deaths. It has been difficult for family and close friends to comprehend the full horror of the events in early February and their sudden and violent deaths.

“This case will, we are sure, raise questions regarding the care, monitoring and custodial treatment of the mentally ill. We can only hope that in the course of time, lessons learned are put into practice to ensure that there is no repetition of these awful events. 

“Lastly, we would like to thank the Police Family Liaison team for their support over the last 10 months, through what has been a very difficult and painful process for us all.”

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