Son detained for killing elderly father

A son attacked his father and killed him just four days after being released from a psychiatric hospital, a court heard.

Shaun Powney, 51, had been detained for 28 days under the Mental Health Act and diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, but was discharged to live with his elderly parents.

Plymouth Crown Court heard that four days later, on the evening of February 18 this year, Powney attacked his 78-year-old father, Patrick Powney, in the kitchen of his home in St Budeaux, Plymouth, with a heavy glass tumbler.

Mr Powney’s wife, Carol, had gone to bed and removed her hearing aids and was unaware of the assault until paramedics arrived at the home in Shelley Way, having been alerted by the defendant.

Powney had lived alone in a flat in Plymouth for many years following the breakdown of his marriage.

Towards the end of last year, as his mental health deteriorated, he moved to the south east of England where his ex-wife and two sons lived.

On January 16, after “intimidating” his ex-wife, Powney was taken to a police station, where he punched a detention officer and was arrested.

“His behaviour was becoming increasingly bizarre and violent and he was detained under Section 2 of the Mental Health Act,” Sean Brunton QC, prosecuting, said.

Shaun Powney
Shaun Powney killed his father in a violent attack, Plymouth Crown Court heard (Devon and Cornwall Police/PA)

“He was assessed as being psychotic and having persistent delusional disorders and schizophrenia, and it seems part of the reason for his behaviour was he had stopped taking his medication several months earlier, which had led to a variety of aggressive and violent incidents.”

Powney was transferred to the Farnham Road Hospital in Guildford, Surrey, and was assessed as suffering from substance misuse, anti-social personality disorder and paranoid schizophrenia.

“However, on February 14 2021, despite still showing very unpredictable behaviour while in hospital, the Section 2 detention was allowed to lapse and he was then discharged with 14 days medication,” Mr Brunton said.

“The hospital contacted his mother, asking if he could be released into her care. In the absence of any other realistic alternatives, it seems she had little choice and reluctantly agreed.”

Mr Powney, who had suffered two strokes and had cancer, was concerned about his son’s erratic behaviour and began spending time at his daughter’s home.

“In reality he had nowhere else to go and they did not know what to do,” Mr Brunton said.

“Neither was equipped to deal with their son and his very real and serious behavioural and mental health problems.

“Mr Powney told his daughter he did not want to be left alone in the house with Shaun.”

Hours before he died, Mr Powney told his daughter: “He’s ready to explode. I can’t live like this and I’m on edge all of the time.”

The court heard the defendant attacked his father shortly after his mother had gone to bed.

“Patrick Powney was watching television in the lounge. What went on in the next 30 to 45 minutes is not known,” Mr Brunton said.

“Whatever it was, something clearly exploded in Shaun Powney’s mind and he set about violently attacking his father in the kitchen.”

When the ambulance crew arrived, Powney told them: “His neck is definitely broken. I stamped on it. Don’t help him, let him die.”

Mr Powney was taken to hospital but died later. A post-mortem examination found he had suffered head and chest injuries.

Mr Brunton added: “Clearly and understandably the family are of the view that Shaun Powney should never have been sent home to his parents’ house by Farnham Road Hospital in the condition he was in.”

At a previous hearing Powney, who had denied murder, admitted manslaughter by reason of diminished responsibility.

Imposing a hospital order without limit of time, Judge Peter Johnson said: “It is not for this court to examine why you were discharged but it would seem you were still showing clear signs of mental disorder when you were discharged.

“Your mother tried to do her best as any caring and loyal parent would do and agreed you would live with her and your father. This decision was to have tragic consequences.

“During the evening of February 18, you attacked your father. It was a sustained and brutal attack involving a heavy glass and a series of blows from your shod feet.

“It is not known why you attacked him but it is clear you were psychotic at the time and it is likely you held delusional beliefs about your father.

“I am entirely satisfied that because of the nature of your offence, your history of mental illness, the risk you would commit further offences if you were not detained, it is necessary to protect the public from serious harm and I order you will be subject to special restrictions set out in Section 41 of the Mental Health Act.”

Dr Justin Wilson, chief medical officer of the Surrey and Borders Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Mr Powney was risk-assessed by the clinical team before his discharge.

“An independent investigation of Mr Powney’s discharge and overall care is ongoing.

“We are very sorry that these tragic events occurred and our thoughts are with the family.”