Peter Fox sentenced for killing mum and sister – re-read updates from court — (Liverpool Echo)

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Liverpool Echo

Updated 13:29, 16 Jun 2016

By Neil Docking

Judge considering sentence for paranoid schizophrenic man who carried out shocking double killing last April.

Peter Fox strangled his mum to death before repeatedly stabbing and killing his sister

Judge Aubrey says the court will hear from another psychiatrist this afternoon about what type of punishment Fox will receive.  The judge says he needs to carefully consider his sentence and does not intend to pass sentence until Monday next week.
That concludes our live blog today. Thanks for following my updates.

Anti-social behaviour

Mr McDermott says Fox was causing anti social behaviour from the age of 11, hurling abuse and shooting at council workmen with a BB gun, breaking into a contractor’s office causing thousands of pounds of damage, setting fire to fences and committing more criminal damage.
He was described as “out of control” at school.
Mr McDermott says he was causing trouble for more than a decade.
He asks the psychiatrist whether he is concerned that while being treated at Ashworth, Fox is still behaving “very badly”. He asks about anti-social behaviour disorders.
Dr Nathan says he is still behaving badly but Fox has been making progress in Ashworth and is showing signs to staff of being warmer to people and more mature.
He says his anti-social behaviour, committed before his mental health problems are thought to have become acute at the age of 16, may not be separate to his mental health problems.
More discussion is taking place now about his suitability to be held in prison.

Expert view

The expert says that the relationship between drug use and mental health problems is complex but likely to be two-way and that Fox is more likely to have used drugs when mentally unwell and then more likely to have been mentally unwell as a result of using the drugs.

He says in a hospital such as Ashworth his access to such illicit drugs would be prevented, while this may not be the case in prison where such drugs can be available.

The court is now hearing about the mental health assessment that was conducted of Fox on February 27 before he committed these crimes. He was not detained as a result.

The judge is asking the professor about the possibility of a hybrid prison and hospital order.  It appears unlikely that Fox will be sentenced before lunch as we are yet to hear Mr Becker’s mitigation and the judge and the psychiatrist are still discussing the details of his potential punishment.

Court hears from psychiatrist

The court is now hearing from a psychiatrist on behalf of the defence who is being questioned by Paul Becker, defending.  The psychiatrist, Dr Rajan Nathan, says he believes Fox was seriously unwell at the time of the killings.

The judge is questioning the professor about the nature of the sentence the court can impose on Fox today. The judge and the psychiatrist are engaged in a lengthy debate about a potential hospital order that Fox may receive.  Fox is sat in silence in the dock staring forward. He is accompanied by four people and a dock officer.

‘Our family is forever broken’

We are now hearing a victim personal statement from Hannah Williams, the niece of Bernadette, on behalf of the family.  Mr McDermott says Bernadette was known as Berna.  She says: “Berna was one of the most amazing people on this planet.  “She was one of the funniest people you could meet.”

Ms Williams says she spent her life “putting everybody else’s needs above her own”.   She says: “Sarah was so clever with her whole life ahead of her.”  She says she was strong and brave for everybody around her.

Ms Williams says both women were loving and caring, so special and loved by all.   She says it’s “absolutely unbelievable” how they found themselves in this horrendous situation.

She says: “Our lives have been ripped apart and we have lost two beautiful people at the hands of someone who should have protected them, but their own flesh and blood did the opposite.”

She says words cannot explain their anguish.

Ms Williams says: “The loss of Sarah and Berna is beyond words.  “Our family is forever broken.”

She says the family believe prosecutors should not have accepted his plea to manslaughter and that he should have been prosecuted for murder.

She says they feel “betrayed”.


The judge says he wants to hear from either the prosecution or defence psychiatrist.  His jury in another trial has reached a decision or has a question.

We will take a short break while this takes place.  Fox will temporarily go back downstairs.

Ashworth assaults

Fox has committed eight assaults – mainly against guards – and criminal damage since being held at Ashworth secure hospital.

Magistrates handed him a conditional discharge after he admitted the offences at the Parkbourn facility in April, May, June and August 2015.

This behaviour entails spitting in the faces of nurses and doctors, throwing urine over the head and faces of them, hurling urine and faeces at a nurse, spitting in the face of a woman ward manager and damaging light fittings.

He told one guard: “I can do what I want you c***. I will kill your kids. You know what I’m capable of.”

He punched a male member of staff in the head because he wasn’t allowed to go to the gym because he failed a drug test after swapping medication with other patients.  He has more outstanding allegations relating to misconduct in the hospital.   These include throwing a cup of tea over a nurse.

Previous convictions

The court hears Fox has “many, many” previous convictions.   At 14 he was convicted of burglary.  He was then convicted of theft and possession of a blade.

In 2005 at 16 he was convicted of burglary and assaulting a police officer. Later that year he breached a curfew order and burgled a home and drove a vehicle dangerously.

In June 2006 for more burglaries he was given 18 months in a YOI.   Later that year he received a concurrent sentence for more burglaries.

He went to a YOI for 30 months at 18 in November 2007 for handling stolen goods.

In December of 2010 by now aged 21 he was convicted of assaulting a police officer and had a suspended sentence.

In March 2011 he committed another burglary and was jailed for 32 months.

In October 2011 he was jailed for assault causing actual bodily harm.

For battery in November 2013 he received a conditional discharge.

In January 2015 for criminal damage he received eight weeks in prison.

He then received 22 weeks for the case referred to earlier, in February this year.

Fox later sectioned

Fox was later sectioned and consultant psychiatrists working at HMP Ashworth and for his legal team diagnosed him with “chronic paranoid schizophrenia”.

Mr McDermott says doctors found that Fox was driven by his illness to carry out the killings.

At the time of the killings he was said to be suffering from “gross abnormality of mental function”.


British Transport Police arrested the killer at Euston station on April 20, following a report from a member of the public.

On the run

Mr McDermott says Fox boarded a train to London at Lime Street at around 8pm, where he arrived just before midnight. He is then believed to have slept rough for five nights.

Just after midnight the police attended Sarah’s flat and there they found her body. She had been stabbed many times. They also went and found the body of a Bernadette. She had been strangled.


The body of Bernadette, 57, was discovered at her property in Brookhill Road, and the body of Sarah, 27, was found at her Worcester Road home on April 15, 2015.

Post-mortem examinations concluded Bernadette died as a result of asphyxiation, while Sarah died from multiple stab wounds.  Bernadette had gone to visit Sarah earlier that day.

He went to her home while she was out and was let in.  At 3.25pm she took a taxi home and got there 10 minute later. She was dead by 4.15pm.

When she returned home he strangled her in her living room and stabbed her repeatedly, although the stab wounds did not cause her death.

He then walked half a mile or so to his sister’s home. Neighbours saw him there at 4.30pm kicking at her door.

She rang her mum, not knowing that she was already dead. He was reluctantly admitted to her flat. He stabbed her repeatedly, causing her death.

Neighbour heard shouts of “will someone help me” and “phone the police”.

Bizarre behaviour

Mr McDermott says in the weeks before the killings his mental health continued to deteriorate.

His behaviour was “becoming bizarre to those who knew him”.   He did not look well and was described by one witness as looking like a “smackhead”.

He went to see his step brother who said he looked “awful”. He was spotty and “appeared to be having a breakdown”.  Mr McDermott says: “He was making squeaking noises and talking gibberish.”

He wanted money for a passport and travel.  Mr McDermott says: “He referred to ‘trouble with divvies from Bootle’.”

He said he “needed help to kill the screws”.   The odd conversation ended after around 20 minutes.

‘Generous woman’

Bernadette Fox was described by witnesses as “a generous woman who could not say no to his demands for money and accommodation”.

She received a black eye from him as well as the broken collarbone.  He spat in her face and threatened her. He once kicked her out of her own flat and she did not return for five days.

He threatened to strangle her if she did not hand money over.  Mr McDermott says she was clearly frightened of him. She was unable to control him.

‘Serial killer’

When being assessed by psychiatrists at this time he said he was believed to be a serial killer and that a documentary was about to be made about him.

He said he was wanted dead by prison staff up and down the country.  He failed to attend an appointment with a psychiatrist on March 18.

Fox was not taking his medication. Mr McDermott says: “He was clearly set on a deteriorating mental course.”

Set fire

On December 4 he accosted a random member of the public and asked him to set fire to his ex-girlfriend.  He showed him a gun and asked for bullets. This person spoke to his ex who contacted police.

He was arrested and kept in custody and on February 22 was sentenced to 22 weeks in prison.  He had served half of this sentence so was released.


He was released from prison on February 27, 2015. Seven weeks before the killings.  He had gone to A&E on November 22 but refused to be assessed.

He climbed a crane in the hospital grounds and threw items from the crane onto a police car.  He was arrested for criminal damage and detained under the mental health act but later released on bail.

‘Particularly unpleasant’

Witnesses said he was “particularly unpleasant” to his mother.  He once “broke her collarbone in one piece of gratuitous violence”.

“His mum was remarkably tolerant of him and indulged him despite his regular mistreatment of her.”  Fox relied on her for money and accommodation.

Mr McDermott said: “There was no good reason for him to have wanted to kill her.”

Relationship with family

Mr McDermott says Fox and his mum Bernadette were both dependant on each other. He was in and out of prison and would live at her sheltered accommodation.

“She was very protective of him but he was abusive of her.”  His relationship with his sister Sarah was “fraught”. They did not get on.

His step brother said he thought he was a “gangster” but was a “Walter Mitty” type.

He may at one time have been a small-time drug dealer.


His criminal record shows a history of aggression for which he has been in and out of prison.

Mr McDermott says he had been “profoundly anti-social and disturbed for many years”.


Fox is now 27. He has a long history of anti-social behaviour.

Mr McDermott says his step brother Stephen Cole told the police that Fox and his sister were allowed to “run riot” as children by their mum.

He says: “Many people who know him speak of him in disparaging terms.”

He had been smoking cannabis since he was nine.

Mr McDermott says: “There is a potential link between drug use or abuse and mental health problems but knowing which is the cart as opposed to the horse many be an unfathomable task.   “There is no doubt the two make each other worse.”

He says psychiatrists cannot say when his mental health problems started.  Fox says he has been hearing voices since he was 16.


Judge Aubrey says the court agrees with the decision the Crown made in this case to accept the plea to manslaughter.

In the dock

Fox, with short brown hair, is in the dock wearing an open white shirt.

He speaks to confirm his name.

Fox has put on a significant amount of weight since he was arrested.


Fox was originally charged with double murder, but at his last court hearing in April, he pleaded guilty to two counts of manslaughter, which was accepted by the Crown.

This was based on two reports by experienced psychiatrists, one for the defence and one for the prosecution.  They found he was a “chronic schizophrenic” and his actions were a result of his illness.

Judge and Counsel

The judge today is Judge David Aubrey, QC.

John McDermott, QC, is prosecuting.

Fox is defended by Paul Becker.

Peter Fox will be sentenced today

A paranoid schizophrenic man who strangled his mum to death before repeatedly stabbing and killing his sister will be sentenced today.

Peter Fox has been detained under the Mental Health Act since the deaths of Bernadette and Sarah Fox in Bootle in April last year.

The 27-year-old, who admitted their manslaughter, will be produced from Ashworth Hospital at Liverpool Crown Court this morning.

The body of Bernadette, 57, was discovered at her property in Brookhill Road, and the body of Sarah, 27, was found at her Worcester Road home on April 15, 2015.

Post-mortem examinations concluded Bernadette died as a result of asphyxiation, while Sarah died from multiple stab wounds.

Fox, who had been living with his mum, went on the run to London, where he slept rough for five nights before he was caught by police.