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Teenager who killed tourist in knife rampage could be locked up indefinitely

A teenager who killed an American tourist and injured five others when he ran amok with a knife in London's Russell Square could be locked up indefinitely.

Zakaria Bulhan, 19, plunged a large kitchen knife into the back of 64-year-old retired special needs teacher Darlene Horton, then "skipped" away with a "crazed smile" on his face, leaving carnage in his wake.

On August 3 last year Mrs Horton was among many tourists on their way back to their hotels after enjoying an evening meal or shows in London's theatreland.

Initially, police feared reports of indiscriminate violence at the scene of one of the 7/7 bombings could be a terror attack.

It was only later that it emerged that Bulhan, who is of Somali origin, was mentally ill.

Within six minutes of the alarm being raised, armed police swooped on the scene and Bulhan was arrested without a shot being fired.

After being Tasered and bundled on to the ground, Bulhan, from Tooting, south London, was heard to mumble repeatedly "Allah, Allah, Allah".

At the Old Bailey Bulhan admitted manslaughter by diminished responsibility and five charges of wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.

More serious charges were left on court file.

Prosecutor Mark Heywood QC accepted the pleas following the "highest level" of consultation in light of evidence Bulhan was suffering an "acute" episode of previously undiagnosed paranoid schizophrenia.

Months before the killing, Bulhan, a Norwegian national, had dropped out of college and in March last year he had been referred for treatment for his mental health due to his "odd" behaviour.

On the day of the attacks Bulhan had gone with his father to attend prayers at the East London Mosque, but had run off and was caught on CCTV heading towards Russell Square.

Mr Heywood said: "Without warning or provocation, the man stabbed six people in relatively quick succession, saying nothing to any of them, moving on after each stabbing towards his next victim."

Mother-of-two Mrs Horton was visiting London with her husband, Richard Wagner, a university professor from Florida who was teaching summer classes.

She had been out for a last meal with her husband before she was due to return to their home in Tallahassee the following day.

As they headed back to their hotel, she came across Bulhan moving around in an "erratic fashion" and wielding a large knife.

Bulhan plunged the knife so deeply into Mrs Horton's body that it went "right up to the hilt".

Her husband had shouted: "This guy is trying to stab people," and chased him with his camera phone at the ready to take photographs.

Five more random strangers were injured, but went on to make full recoveries, the court heard.

Bernard Hepplewhite, 65, from London, had been to see a production of Showboat in Drury Lane with a Canadian friend before he too was attacked.

Australian tourist Lillie Sellentin, 23, was also in Russell Square following a trip to see Aladdin at the Prince Edward Theatre.

They only realised they had been stabbed when someone shouted: "He's got a knife."

American Martin Hoenisch, 59, and his wife were returning from a restaurant in Covent Garden when he suffered the same fate.

Australian David Imber, 40, who had been to see Kinky Boots at the Adelphi Theatre, described the knifeman's "crazed smile" as their eyes locked.

The youngest victim, Israeli Yovel Lewronski, 18, was returning from dinner with her grandfather and began to scream hysterically after Bulhan sliced into her arm.

In a statement read to the court, Mrs Horton's widower said: "Losing Darlene, my wife and best friend, under these circumstances is as bad as you might imagine it to be, if not worse. As bad I feel for my loss, I feel worse for the loss experienced by my two daughters."

Mr Wagner said there was an irony to the fact that his high school sweetheart, a former special needs teacher, lost her life to mental illness.

He said the family had suffered "an unspeakable tragedy" because of "potentially unknowable deficiencies in our system of identifying and treating individuals with mental illness".

"As a result, a potential killer was allowed to walk the streets," he said.

Their daughter, Shannon Wagner, said London had a special place in the hearts of the family, which was now "tarnished".

She said through his inability to function and receive treatment as an outpatient, Bulhan had "lost the right to be in society".

Detective Inspector Tony Lynes, of the Met's Homicide and Major Crime Command, said: "Our thoughts must remain with Bulhan's victims who were simply enjoying a night out on a summer's evening when they were subjected to this terrifying ordeal.

"And of course, the friends and family of Darlene Horton, who so sadly lost her life."

Bulhan could be handed an indefinite hospital order when he is sentenced on Tuesday.

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