Exmouth man found guilty of random murder

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A man who threatened to kill a "random stranger" if he wasn't sectioned has been found guilty of murdering a 74-year-old woman in Exeter. Cameron Davis, 31, from Exmouth, fatally stabbed Lorna England in the heart as she walked through Ludwell Valley Park on February 18, 2023.

Three hours earlier, Davis had been released from the Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital after a mental health assessment. When arrested later that evening in Exeter city centre, he blamed medical staff for ignoring his warnings.

Davis admitted to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility but denied murder. The primary issue for the jury at Exeter Crown Court was the extent of his mental illness at the time of the killing. The prosecution argued he was angry and manipulative, a drinker and drug-user, but not psychotic. The defence claimed he had a severe schizoaffective disorder.

The jury rejected his defence and convicted him of murder. He will be sentenced to life in prison on Thursday. The judge told him: "You're going to be sentenced for the offence of murder. You know it must be a life sentence, and my task will be to decide what the minimum sentence will be. That will take place on Thursday."

The trial heard that Lorna, a fit and active woman, had left home to buy flour from Lidl in Burnthouse Lane at 3 pm. Her husband of 52 years, David, was waiting at home. He usually made her a cup of tea when she returned.

Davis attacked Lorna at 3:55 pm in a wooded area. She died at the scene from a knife wound that penetrated her chest to a depth of 12 cm. She also had a slash to her neck and defensive wounds on her hand. The trial revealed Davis' background and his involvement with mental health services in the months and years before the fatal attack. He had worked in construction but had been homeless at times.

In January, he was living in temporary accommodation at a guest house in Exeter Road, Exmouth, and told his support worker that he thought his mental health was deteriorating. He also developed a fixation with his housing support worker and threatened to “smash her head in.”

On January 28, he was assessed by two psychiatrists after saying he would either kill himself or someone else. It was decided he did not need to be sectioned. On February 16, he was given notice to leave his accommodation.

On the day he killed Lorna England, Davis called police at 4:40 am and told them that unless he was arrested, he would set fire to his flat or commit suicide. He told an ambulance crew who took him to the RD&E that he would “harm a random member of the public” if discharged from the hospital.

He repeated the threats when assessed by two experienced mental health nurses. Both knew his long medical history and decided he did not need to be admitted to the hospital under the Mental Health Act because he was not psychotic. Davis left the hospital at 12:49 pm.

His movements over the next few hours were recorded on CCTV. He bought vodka and chocolate at McColl’s shortly after 1 pm, then went to Lidl, where he bought more drink and a kitchen knife.

He spent time in a doorway behind Wonford Sports Centre and called his mother on the phone. He later told a jury he was contemplating suicide. Davis walked into the park at 3:50 pm - just as Lorna England was leaving Lidl.

The last sighting of Lorna alive was CCTV of her walking along a path in Ludwell Valley Park, with Davis about 11 seconds behind her.

A dog walker at 3:55 pm saw a man and woman near the bridge. She said it looked like the male was blocking the woman’s path. She heard the woman cry out in pain and collapse.

Davis walked away from the scene, telling the witness she’d “had a fit or something.”

In the aftermath, he was seen by several people. One woman said he followed her along Burnthouse Lane. “I’m not easily scared, but I was immediately uneasy,” she said.

Davis was seen behaving strangely and bothering customers in the Dolphin pub before getting a lift to the Ship & Pelican in Heavitree. He tried to buy a drink in the Horse & Groom but had no money.

He was arrested outside the Yorkshire Bank in the High Street at 9:30 pm. The prosecution said Davis was assessed multiple times by doctors over several years who diagnosed him with an emotionally unstable personality disorder. During one disruptive spell in a secure unit, he was branded a ‘malingerer’ or somebody who faked symptoms.

Dr. Imraan Jhetam told the jury he had assessed Davis about three weeks before the killing. "We didn't think he was suffering from a psychotic illness or mental disorder at that stage," he said. "We didn't think he was a risk to himself or others."

Defence expert Dr. Richard Pool, a consultant psychiatrist, told the trial that Davis had a schizoaffective disorder that would cause an abnormality of mental functioning and met the test of diminished responsibility.

The defendant said he could not remember exactly what happened when he killed Lorna.

After the verdict, the judge praised the jury's efforts in hearing what she described as "an awful, awful case."

"This has been one of the most shocking and brutal killings. The killing of a member of the public walking through the park by a complete stranger taps into some very human fears. It was a tragedy for the England family."

She said jurors had to process complex medical evidence from no less than 17 mental health experts and doctors.

"The fact of the verdict will be some form of closure and comfort for the family, painful as it is," she said.

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