Belfast Telegraph

Friday 18 April 2014

Killer found after hospital escape

Phillip Westwater, a convicted killer dubbed the Black Dog Strangler, escaped from a secure hospital in Newcastle

A convicted killer dubbed the Black Dog Strangler who escaped from a secure hospital has been found, police said.

Phillip Westwater, 44, fled St Nicholas Hospital in Gosforth, Newcastle, at 10am on Wednesday after asking to go to the toilet.

He was found on Wednesday night when a member of the public recognised him from a photograph circulated through the media.

A spokeswoman for Northumbria Police said: "The missing man has been located safe and well in the Newcastle area. Officers will be taking him back to the secure unit at St Nicholas's Hospital. A call was made by a member of the public who contacted police after recognising a photo of Phillip."

A manhunt was launched after Westwater, from Newcastle, fled from St Nicholas Hospital. He was being escorted from his ward in the hospital to a restaurant in a separate building - but within the hospital site - when he asked to go to the toilets, changed his clothes and escaped.

The hospital is considered a medium-secure unit, and Westwater, who is diabetic, will have undergone a risk assessment before he was escorted by a member of staff, a Northumberland Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust spokesman said.

"Patients in receipt of hospital care routinely undertake periods of planned or escorted leave as part of their treatment plans, which are designed to help in their recovery," the spokesman said. "Before being granted leave, all patients are rigorously risk- assessed. In the rare event that a patient does go missing, we have agreed protocols in place with our colleagues at Northumbria Police to ensure that patients are returned to hospital as quickly as possible."

Westwater was detained indefinitely under the Mental Health Act following a pub fight in 1989 in which he left a drinker paralysed for life after slashing him across the throat with a shard of glass in a pub fight.

The following year he strangled fellow patient Derek Williams at Ashworth Hospital, Liverpool, with his dressing gown cord. He admitted manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility, having become convinced his victim had turned into a black dog.

He married a nurse while he was a patient at high-security Rampton Hospital in 2008. Before being treated at Rampton, Westwater had also been a patient at Broadmoor.

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