Inquest begins into death of Stapleford grandad John McGrath stabbed by grandson

John McGrath, 81, Stapleford stabbing victim.
John McGrath, 81, Stapleford stabbing victim.

Grandad John McGrath who was stabbed to death by his schizophrenic grandson had fought tirelessly to get him help – but he had to die for that to happen, an inquest was told.

William Barnard pleaded guilty to Mr McGrath’s manslaughter, by diminished responsibility, in 2010.

Barnard was aged 30 when he was indefinitely detained at Rampton high security hospital under the Mental Health Act.

Now an inquest has opened into Mr McGrath’s death in Nottingham, to investigate the circumstances of how he died and come to a conclusion about the cause.

Mr McGrath’s daughter, Ann Popow, told the hearing in a moving statement as the inquest started: “Dad loved all his grandchildren but he was father figure to Will and always looked out for him.

“Dad was saddened by Will’s illness and the inadequate support he was receiving.

“He said to mum, ‘I’m not a happy man when I can see one of my grandchildren is suffering’.

He fought tirelessly to get William the help he needed and he had to die for that to happen.”

After killing Mr McGrath, Barnard turned the knife on his grandmother, Mabel McGrath, then 84, but she survived, the sentencing judge had heard.

Mrs Popow told the hearing their sorrow had been compounded by watching their mother dealing with her grief.

“She is tortured by daily flashbacks of that day and having to somehow carry on without her husband; the man who was her reason for living.

“She wishes she hadn’t survived and that she had gone with him. It will take a very long time for our grief to pass, if indeed it does.”

Just days before Mr McGrath was killed, on July 24, 2009, Barnard, of Wesley Place, Stapleford, was apparently seen bare chested and growling. Months before he had been mistakenly identified as a suspect with a machete in an alleged attempted robbery.

Health team workers began seeing him in pairs following reports he had been aggressive to cleaners at his flat, the inquest was told.

Barnard had not had his anti-psychotic injections since December 2008.

Between April and July 2009 his mental health was in decline, but no attempt was made to assess him under the Mental Health Act, the inquest heard.

An assessment should have taken place and was planned for July 27, three days after Barnard killed his 81-year-old grandfather, of Thorpe Close, Stapleford.

Barnard had been detained under the Mental Health Act in 2007 and had consented to the anti-psychotic injections.

The following year, his consultant, Stuart Leask, told the hearing Barnard looked decently turned out and there was no evidence of self-neglect.

He was being seen by another health team for drug and alcohol issues and had been prescribed Methadone.

Mr McGrath had contacted the an outreach team involved in his grandson’s care because he was concerned he was not catering for himself properly.

Mr Barnard also rang them to say they were “hounding him”, visiting his flat at various times of the day and waiting for him at the chemist, the inquest heard.

Heidi Connor, assistant coroner for Nottinghamshire, will hear evidence for two weeks before presenting her conclusion.

She said: “John McGrath was tragically stabbed to death at his home by his grandson, William Barnard, on July 24. He was convicted of manslaughter in 2010.

“Two key areas I need to consider whether William should have been detained by mental health services and whether police should have arrested and detained him before July 24th.”

She said the inquiry was fact-finding and she was not there to find scapegoats.