Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 28 December 2014

Masked church attacker sectioned

A grieving widower has been sectioned under the Mental Health Act after carrying out an attack on church parishioners in Orpington
A grieving widower has been sectioned under the Mental Health Act after carrying out an attack on church parishioners in Orpington

A man grieving the death of his wife daubed "I love you" in blood on a church wall as he attacked parishioners during a violent rampage, a court has heard.

Malcolm Holland, 56, armed himself with a meat cleaver and a lock knife before launching the attack at St Barnabas Church in St Paul's Cray, near Orpington, Kent, last July.

Wearing a Halloween mask, he smashed up cars, broke into the church hall and assaulted two singers from a local music group, Croydon Crown Court heard. He was finally stopped by a have-a-go hero who had become a British citizen only hours earlier.

Holland, who already had a history of mental illness before the death of his wife last year, said to his victims: "My wife was taken away from me, where was your God?" A judge spared him a prison sentence, deciding instead to section him under the Mental Health Act.

Nicholas Dunham, prosecuting, told the court that Holland began the attack by causing damage to windows and assaulting the church rector's husband. Shouting "My wife died of cancer and you did nothing about it", he smashed up two cars parked outside the rector's house. He then broke the glass in the church's front door, causing members of local ladies' barbershop chorus Velvet Harmony, who were practising there, to barricade themselves inside a hall.

Bursting through to get at them, Holland set upon Yvonne Burr, who is in her 80s. Mrs Burr tried to defend herself with a walking stick but Holland punched her in the face and then kicked her after knocking her to the ground.

When fellow group member Gillian Page, in her 60s, came to Mrs Burr's rescue, she was also assaulted and left with bruises. The rampage only came to an end when local man Stephen Izegbu confronted Holland.

"Mr Izegbu's home overlooks the church and, when he saw the attack on the elderly ladies, he rushed across to intervene," Mr Dunham told the court. "After being hit on the head with a crutch, which caused heavy bleeding, he wrestled Mr Holland to the ground and kept him there, screaming and shouting, until the police arrived."

Judge Daniel Flahive sentenced Holland to serve a hospital order under the Mental Health Act in addition to a restriction order after hearing evidence from the doctor who is treating him. Holland, of Silverdale Road, St Paul's Cray, had already admitted one count of assault occasioning actual bodily harm, four counts of assault by beating, three counts of damaging property and two charges of having an article with a blade or point.

The sentence means he will be sectioned in hospital until those treating him consider that he is no longer a risk to the public. The judge also praised Mr Izegbu, saying: "The bravery he showed should be marked and if it is possible he should be paid £500 from public funds."

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