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Hammer attack accused was having a nervous breakdown, court hears

Joseph Isaacs left Jim Booth with multiple skull fractures after the attack.

A bogus builder who attacked a 96-year-old D-Day veteran with a claw hammer and then left him for dead has claimed he was having a nervous breakdown at the time.

Joseph Isaacs left Jim Booth with multiple skull fractures after the attack at the older man’s home in Gipsy Lane, Taunton, on November 22 last year.

At Taunton Crown Court, where Isaacs is on trial accused of attempting to murder the Royal Navy veteran, he told jurors that he had been sleeping in his car prior to the attack and was “starving”, having not eaten for four days.

I was having a breakdown. I remember most of it. I can’t remember every last bit of it Joseph Isaacs

Isaacs, who has been appearing at the trial via videolink from HMP Long Lartin, was brought to the hearing in person on Wednesday and sat accompanied by six security officers in the open dock.

While giving evidence, the 40-year-old – who was wearing a green T-shirt, jeans and two sets of handcuffs, one connected to his wrists and a second linking one of his wrists to that of a security officer – explained to jurors that he had a speech impediment and sometimes spoke too quickly.

Isaacs said he approached Mr Booth’s house on November 22 hoping that nobody was home with the intention of burgling the property – and took the hammer to break the door down.

He said: “I was having a breakdown. I remember most of it. I can’t remember every last bit of it.

“I shouldn’t have been in Taunton I should have went back to my mum’s and dad’s and got help sort of thing.”

Isaacs told the jury he was “surprised” when Mr Booth answered the door and invented the offer of doing repair work to the property’s roof as an excuse for being there.

He said he could not remember Mr Booth’s response, but remembered following him into his home shouting “money, money, money”.

Isaacs admitted hitting Mr Booth a number of times, but denied hitting him after he collapsed on to the floor near a table in his living room.

He told jurors Mr Booth was on his feet when he left.

“He was up, he had a bit of blood on his head and hands,” said Isaacs.

“He was up swaying. It (the attack) was (over in) seconds.”

The court heard Isaacs left Mr Booth’s home, taking his bank card and a cheque, but was arrested two days later on suspicion of attempted murder after using the card to make a number of transactions.

Isaacs told the arresting officers “this is a joke”, and said in court that reaction was because he thought the attack “was GBH”, not attempted murder.

When asked specific details about when and where he hit Mr Booth by Rachel Drake, for the prosecution, Isaacs repeatedly said things similar to: “I can’t remember, I was having a nervous breakdown.”

He told the jury that he believed some of Mr Booth’s injuries were caused when he fell.

Ms Drake asked how this was possible for a number of injuries in different locations.

He said: “As you get older your bones get brittler [sic]. That is life isn’t it?”

Isaacs said he answered “no comment” in a police interview because he was not comfortable with the solicitors who were there to advise him.

“What have I got to hide,” he asked. “I haven’t done anything wrong.

“I am not England’s most wanted criminal.”

Ms Drake asked if Isaacs knew that hitting someone on the head with a hammer could cause “an awful lot of damage”.

Isaacs said: “You are probably right but have you ever had a nervous breakdown miss?

“Do you know what it is like not to have food for four days?”

He denied intending to kill Mr Booth, who the court heard was rushed to hospital after the attack where he stayed for eight days – and was found to be suffering multiple lacerations to his head, hands and harms as well as a number of skull fractures.

Earlier on Wednesday, forensic scientist Margaret Boyce, who examined Mr Booth’s house for blood stains, told the jury she noted one attack site – where blows are struck into or near wet blood – in the living room..

She said the blood distribution was consistent with Mr Booth being “struck multiple times with a hammer” while lying on the floor.

In a statement read to the court, Isaacs’ mother, Cathleen, said she reported her son missing around November 14 because she was concerned that he did not have medication.

He had a problem with blood clots and had suffered a heart attack earlier that year, she said, adding that her and her husband’s relationship with their son was “a lot of the time alright”.

The court heard Isaacs had two previous convictions and a police caution – all for offences of shoplifting.

Isaacs, of no fixed abode, admitted counts of causing GBH with intent, aggravated burglary and six allegations of fraud at a hearing in February.

He denies attempted murder.

The trial continues.

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