Family say ‘negligence and incompetence’ to blame for schizophrenic grandson killing grandad

William Barnard
William Barnard

“Negligence and incompetence” led to the death of John McGrath, who was stabbed by his schizophrenic grandson, his family have said.

An inquest into the death of the Stapleford man finished on Friday. William Barnard stabbed Mr McGrath on July 24, 2009.

John McGrath, 81, Stapleford stabbing victim.

John McGrath, 81, Stapleford stabbing victim.

Assistant coroner Heidi Connor concluded that if police and health professionals had acted sooner, the death may have been avoided.

It was found that there had been a delay between April 16 and July 24, 2009, in assessing William under the Mental Health Act and that there was a delay by police in arresting him in May of the same year.

John’s son, Peter McGrath, of Stapleford, said: “We believe that our father was killed by negligence and incompetence of those that were responsible for his health and those responsible for public safety. The family is really pleased with the coroner’s conclusion regarding the delay in arranging a mental health assessment. If one had been carried out before July 24 he would have been detained.

“William should have also been arrested before July 24 and if he had been it is highly likely that a mental health assessment would have then taken place.”

Health professionals made 29 attempts to see William between January 2009 and July 24, 2009 and of those, he did not engage with them on 24 occasions.

On May 17, 2009, someone used a machete-like knife to threaten two people at a robbery at the Stapleford pharmacy where William usually picked up medication. He was a suspect and his name and address was known to police from May 29, 2009, but an arrest was not planned until July 24. This was postponed due to police staffing levels, the inquest heard.

Assistant Chief Constable Simon Torr said in a statement issued after the inquest: “The force recognises that there were things that could and should have been done differently in 2009.

An arrest plan was in place for July 24, which was tragically the day John McGrath was killed.

“We accept there were opportunities missed to arrest William Barnard earlier and for that we do apologise.”

A mental health assessment was not officially requested until July 24 despite there being concerns dating back to April 16.

Jon Wilson, deputy director at Notts County Council, said: “We are pleased that the coroner acknowledged that we have introduced a number of significant changes since 2009. These include introducing a dedicated countywide team to carry out mental health assessments.’’

Ms Connor recorded a narrative conclusion of unlawful killing. She said: “There was delay in arranging for William to be assessed under the Mental Health Act 1983, between 16 April and 24 July 2009. If this had been carried out before July 24, 2009, it is likely that William would have been detained and would not have been at liberty to kill John.

“There was also delay by the police in arresting William in relation to a separate incident in May 2009. If William had been arrested, it is likely that an assessment under the Mental Health Act would have ensued, William would have been detained, and would not have been at liberty to kill his grandfather.”

A spokesman from Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust said: “Nottinghamshire Healthcare would once again like to extend its sympathies to John McGrath’s family.

“We have acknowledged the failings in our services in 2009 but would like to reassure the public that significant changes have been made.”