Father Paul BennettCase Study: Father Paul Bennett

5. A case study of what happened to Father Paul Bennett’s family after he was murdered in Aberdare, Wales by schizophrenic Geraint Evans in March 2007.

CASE STUDY GERAINT EVANS

Geraint Evans killed Father Paul Bennett in March 2007. This account details what happened and outlines the terrible effect on Father Bennett’s family.

On the afternoon of Wednesday 14 March 2007, Father Paul Bennett was putting out the rubbish in front of his vicarage at St Fagan’s church in Trecynon, near Aberdare in South Wales. Married with two children and a young grandson, he was known as a kind and gentle man who was well respected in the local community.

A few minutes later his wife Georgina heard screaming.

She rushed outside to find her husband on the ground being repeatedly stabbed in the head and chest by a 23 year old local man, Geraint Evans. It was a frenzied and sustained attack and Mrs Bennett tried desperately to get Evans off her husband. She tried to pull him away, but he raised his knife and stabbed Father Paul forcibly through the heart.

Evans, a paranoid schizophrenic with a long history of drug abuse believed he
was the Antichrist.

Mrs Bennett rushed inside to call the emergency services. It was 2.46pm. But the operator couldn’t find the location and delayed dispatching the ambulance and alerting the police.

Father Paul had been stabbed 21 times and was losing a massive amount of
blood. Although the police station was just a mile away, it seemed to take ages to get a patrol car to the vicarage. The Police received the call at 2.50 and arrived six minutes later, some ten minutes after the initial 999 call.

They found Father Bennett lying on the pathway between the church and the vicarage, with multiple injuries bleeding profusely. As they arrived Mrs Bennett emerged from the house, bloodstained, and pointed out her husband’s attacker. Evans was still there, also heavily bloodstained, calmly sitting on a garden bench. He’d scattered 10 computer CDs around on the ground containing details of his plans and intentions.

The Police then recovered the murder weapon – a seven inch combat knife. But the ambulance took longer and when it did finally arrive, seventeen minutes after the initial emergency call, the paramedics failed to offer Father Paul any CPR or try to resuscitate him. The police told them the priest was already dead and the paramedics couldn’t find a pulse. It later emerged they had misunderstood standard procedures, and actually should have intervened – although it’s not clear whether it would have made any difference to the final outcome.

Father Bennett died at the scene as a result of his terrible injuries.

He was a devoted, hard working and popular priest, much loved by his family and all those who knew him. His death hit the close knit community very hard indeed.

It soon emerged that Geraint Evans had a long history of disturbed behaviour and drug abuse who had become increasingly psychotic since 2004. As a teenager he’d had a history of cruelty to animals and had committed a sexual assault on an underage girl. In 1995 a psychiatrist had judged him to be ‘a serious risk’ but there was little follow up. As he became more psychotic he said he heard voices from the bible and had a particular fixation with death and the devil. At times he believed he was God.

His mother mistook his deteriorating mental condition for an ongoing religious
and spiritual conversion.

In January 2006 Evans had seriously wounded 18 year old Craig Pike, stabbing him through the lung. He was arrested, but for reasons which remain unclear he wasn’t charged and no psychiatric examination was taken.

A few months later, outside Father Bennett’s vicarage, he attempted to cut his own throat with a Stanley knife. The wound was only superficial, but when treated in A&E, doctors were so concerned about his psychotic state that they ordered an urgent psychiatric consultation. Geraint Evans told A&E staff he’d attempted suicide to stop the governments of the world starting a nuclear war.
He claimed he was the reincarnation of Jesus Christ.

It was 8.20am and the Psychiatric assessment team, however, didn’t start work
until 9.00. Evans didn’t want to wait, and left the hospital. But the mental health team didn’t follow up the call or even tell his GP about the incident. Despite Evans’ obvious serious mental health problems he was never properly assessed by any psychiatric team. He told investigators later that the suicide attempt was to try and stop himself from ‘killing many people’.

Over the next months Evans became increasingly violent and aggressive towards his mother. He said he was seeing signs coming out of the computer. He heard voices telling him he was the Antichrist. The voices told him to kill the vicar.

On October 16 2007 Geraint Evans pleaded guilty to manslaughter by reason of
diminished responsibility and was sentenced to indefinite detention in a secure
psychiatric hospital. The judge described the crime as a brutal killing of a wholly
innocent man. It was, he said, a killing as cruel as is possible to contemplate.

Two years later an independent inquiry into the case published its report.
They listed a number of significant failings.

They were critical of the failure to follow up concerns about Evan’s psychotic state when he attended A&E after the botched suicide attempt in July 2006. They found that Had Mr D received a full psychiatric assessment…, a diagnosis of psychosis could have been made and appropriate treatment initiated. Had he received such treatment over a period of time and responded adequately, the risk of his committing an act of violence or homicide might have been reduced
There were failings around the handling of the 999 call.

Apart from having difficulty in locating the vicarage (which led to delays in dispatching the police and ambulance), the call handler repeatedly asked Mrs Bennett to go outside and check on her husband - despite being told several times the attacker was still armed and on the scene. It appeared the operator was just following a script.

And although the police engaged a Family Liaison Officer promptly that day, the inquiry found local mental health services were less helpful.

It had become apparent that Mrs Bennett was suffering badly in the immediate
aftermath of the murder. In the days following the murder she was visited by her
GP and by volunteers from Victim Support. But it soon became clear that Mrs
Bennett needed more specialist help and her doctor made an urgent referral to
the local Community Mental Health Team.

The Mental Health team declined to help saying they didn’t offer bereavement
counselling, saying she should contact a charity.

Mrs Bennett’s health deteriorated further and after another visit by volunteers
from Victim Support her GP was contacted again who made a further referral to
the mental health team.

Two months after the murder, Mrs Bennett finally saw a mental health specialist, who on seeing her immediately diagnosed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – a condition usually found in combat veterans, torture victims and others who have experienced a deep psychological trauma.

Given Mrs Bennett was an immediate eye witness to the murderous attack on her
husband, given she fought unsuccessfully with the attacker, and given she had to wait ten long minutes for the police to arrive whilst Evans continued to stab her husband, it is hardly surprising she would have been severely traumatised.

Yet it required repeated requests to the health and mental health agencies before
anybody would help her.

As the inquiry was published Father Bennett’s family said:

Once more, society has been let down by the failings of our social services and
health authorities. How many more innocent people are going to lose their lives in the most horrific of circumstances before these organisations begin to realise the consequences of their inadequate actions?

How many more times must we hear the words, ‘failed to follow up’, ‘opportunities missed’ and ‘poor communication’?

Surely, when dealing with the most vulnerable people in our society, they and we deserve more.


SOURCES

Western Mail (Cardiff) – various dates including – 04.10.07, 16.10.07, 13.03.08, 27.11.09,
28.11.09

Health Inspectorate Wales – Report of a review in respect of Mr D [Geraint Evans] and the provision of mental health services following the homicide of Father Paul committed in March 2007 and the Ambulance response and care provided to Father Paul’s family and local community. November 2009

http://www.hiw.org.uk/news.cfm?orgid=477&contentid=13771

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