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Judge baffled by killer's treatment

An inquiry has been launched into why a seriously-ill psychiatric patient who stabbed a 16-year-old schoolgirl to death was freed from prison without supervision before the killing.

A High Court judge said it was "difficult to understand" why Phillip Simelane was living on the streets in the months before he attacked Christina Edkins despite concern about his mental state.

Christina died within minutes after being stabbed in the chest by Simelane in a "chilling" attack as she travelled to school on a bus in Birmingham.

Simelane, who admitted manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility, from Walsall, had been sleeping on the bus prior to the random stabbing, which occurred after he was "overwhelmed" by his mental illness.

Ordering Simelane to be detained in a secure psychiatric unit indefinitely, Mrs Justice Thirlwall expressed concern the paranoid schizophrenic was not receiving treatment at the time of the killing.

Imposing a hospital order without limit of time, the judge told African-born Simelane: "Anyone who sat here and listened to the background to this case and read the many documents and statements will be disturbed to read that you were living in the community with an illness of that severity, living rough with no medical help or indeed any other help at all.

"At the time you attacked Christina you were suffering from a serious mental illness.

"Your mental function was wholly abnormal. That is why you killed Christina - in your deluded state you thought she was a danger to you.

"It is difficult to understand how it came about that in December 2012 someone with your level of illness should have been sleeping rough with no one to look after you."

The court heard an experienced specialist registrar in psychiatry had insisted Simelane needed in-patient treatment on at least two occasions prior to the killing.

But the treatment was not made available to the 23-year-old, who had two previous convictions for knife-related offences.

Referring to an incident a year before the fatal stabbing in which Simelane made death threats towards two schoolgirls on a bus, the judge went on: "Those who gave statements - ordinary lay people - were of the view that you were mentally ill.

"The terrible reality is that Christina was the person who happened to be on the bus on the day you were overwhelmed by your illness."

Simelane was released from jail in December last year after serving a four-week sentence for vehicle interference.

The court heard Simelane's mental health problems began in his mid-teens and coincided with several criminal convictions.

The attack on Christina, a pupil at Leasowes High School in Halesowen, was captured on CCTV footage which was not shown to the court.

The judge, addressing an impassive Simelane, said: "You saw Christina get on the bus and CCTV shows in chilling detail you were watching her.

"After a few minutes you walked towards her and stabbed her."

Other passengers did all they could to treat Christina but when paramedics arrived just moments later they found she was not breathing and had no pulse.

Simelane was arrested about four-and-a-half hours after the stabbing in a nearby street.

A police search of the local area led to the recovery of a white bag containing the weapon used to stab Christina, a mobile phone, a smoked joint, and a piece of paper bearing Simelane's fingerprints.

The judge said it was clear Simelane had been suffering a "pervasive and pernicious" form of mental illness at the time of the attack.

She directed a full account of the hearing be made available to the independent inquiry teams now looking into the case.

During her sentencing remarks, Mrs Justice Thirlwall said it was plain from the medical evidence of psychiatric experts that given the severity of Simelane's condition his responsibility was diminished.

She said as early as mid-2005, Simelane's own mother was "repeatedly asking for help" for her son and was desperate for assistance.

In July 2012, he was jailed for threatening her with a knife and handed a restraining order in an incident in which he also punched a police officer.

The Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust confirmed it was involved in Simelane's prison-based care.

In a statement the trust said: "Phillip Simelane had previously been in receipt of care from a number of healthcare providers over a period of years.

"What is clear, is that there are lessons to be learned for us and others involved in the care of Phillip Simelane to prevent such a tragedy happening again in the future."

After ordering Simelane to be taken down to cells, Mrs Justice Thirlwall turned to address Christina's family, praising the "dignity" with which they had carried themselves throughout.

She told the teenager's mother Kathleen she had been "moved and humbled" by her victim impact statement.

"It paints the whole picture of Christina as a living, breathing, caring and exciting young woman, full of care, concern and generosity.

"I was struck that her headteacher wrote that if a school could choose its pupils it would be full of Christinas."


From Belfast Telegraph