SSRI Ed note: Talented young man is depressed, gets antidepressant, has violent urges, warns docs who ignore him, kills woman. Personality disorder blamed. Jailed for life.


Original article no longer available

This is Exeter

 11:40 – 16 November 2007

Adam Thomas expects he will spend 10 to 15 years in prison, “drinking tea and reading newspapers” for beating Sharon Stokes to death with a brick, according to a consultant psychiatrist.

Dr James Sandford gave evidence on behalf of the defence for 24-year-old Thomas at Exeter Crown Court yesterday.

He diagnosed Thomas as suffering from psychopathy, making him prone to criminal behaviour, impulsiveness and exploiting others.

The court heard that Thomas sought help and repeatedly warned health professionals about his violent urges, hoping to be “locked up” to prevent acting out his fantasies.

He was given anti-depressants and was awaiting further psychiatric assessment when he killed Miss Stokes, 35, at her flat in Exmouth, in the early hours of Valentine’s Day this year, after meeting her at a nightclub.

Thomas, of Trinfield Avenue, Exmouth, has pleaded not guilty to murdering Miss Stokes but guilty to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility due to a personality disorder.

The prosecution says Thomas enjoyed hurting his victim and knew that what he was doing was wrong.

Dr Sandford, explaining Thomas’s psychopathy, said: “I would describe it in his case at being at a very severe end (of the scale) – particularly, his callousness, lack of emotion and arrogance.”

Dr Sandford, who has interviewed Thomas and read evidence in the case, said he was also suffering from depression and was prone to binge-drinking at the time of the offence.

Thomas told him about his violent fantasies – and also about putting them into practice.

He spoke of trying to provoke fights with friends, shouting abuse at a group of young black people and punching a man he followed through an alleyway.

“He would wait or hope someone would give him the opportunity to assault them,” said Dr Sandford, adding that Thomas had apologised to the man in the alleyway while attacking him.

Dr Sandford said: “The defendant had, I consider, a large degree of self-confidence.

“His idea, because of his intelligence, size and co-ordination and physique, was that he would come out on top. He described it as ‘Berserker’ mode, a Viking term for going into war.”

Thomas tried to commit suicide in 2006 and crashed a car into a bank branch in January this year.

“He realised he was a boulder running out of control and bad things were going to happen,” said Dr Sandford.

Thomas was on medication for depression and had been seen by various health professionals before the killing.

On the day he met Miss Stokes, the Exmouth community health team wrote to offer him an appointment to see a clinical psychologist later that month.

Defence counsel Jerome Lynch QC asked Dr Sandford: “He was talking about butchering people. Was it safe to leave him in society?”

The psychiatrist replied: “That’s a big question. It’s extremely unusual and very rare to detain people with a personality disorder, under the Mental Health Act.”

Mr Lynch asked Dr Sandford what Thomas thought the appropriate outcome would be for him as a result of the killing.

“That he would be in prison for a long time, 10 to 15 years,” said Dr Sandford.

The defence counsel asked: “Did he seem emotionally engaged with that?” Dr Sandford replied: “He came across as completely indifferent to it, almost welcoming that he would be removed from society, as good for him and good for society. He would spend his time drinking tea and reading newspapers.”

The trial continues.


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‘Grim Reaper’ is jailed for life — (BBC News)

Last Updated: Tuesday, 20 November 2007, 16:22 GMT 

A man who told a woman he was the “Grim Reaper” before he beat her to death with a brick has been jailed for life.

Adam Thomas, 24, of Trinfield Avenue, Exmouth, Devon, was found guilty of murdering 35-year-old Sharon Stokes in her flat in Rolle Street, Exmouth.

Exeter Crown Court heard he told Ms Stokes he was a “monster” before killing her on Valentine’s Day after meeting her in a nightclub.

He must serve 15 years in prison before he can be considered for release.

Thomas, a former Portsmouth University business studies undergraduate, had maintained he should be acquitted of murder but convicted of manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility.

Violent fantasies

Forensic psychiatrist Dr John Sandford told the court Thomas suffered from a psychopathic personality disorder and a depressive illness and had had violent fantasies since his mid-teens.

The court heard Thomas had a psychopathic personality disorder

He began to get involved in acts of violence which he sometimes provoked and “quite enjoyed being in a state of uncontrolled anger”, the court heard.

Dr Sandford said Thomas had some psychiatric help, but did not think it was enough and wanted to be locked up.

Exeter Crown Court heard Thomas previously tried to drive through a bank because he wanted to be sent to prison or sectioned.

Thomas was seen in the club kissing Ms Stokes

The court also heard from his mother, nurse Karen Thomas, who said her son had needed help and had “wanted to get himself taken out of society”.

She said Mr Thomas was given a psychiatric assessment, medication for depression and was put on a waiting list for an appointment with a hospital mental health team.

The court heard that when a health crisis team told her he had been released, she thought he would kill himself.

Martin Meeke, for the prosecution, said they accepted Thomas had an abnormality of mind, but not to the extent that it impaired his responsibility.

On the night of the murder he had drunk six bottles of lager and paid for champagne for a group of girls.

He was seen in the club kissing Ms Stokes, who he did not know, and later left the club with her.

There can be no doubt that you pose a very serious danger to the public

Judge Graham Cottle

The court heard he told the police: “I just wanted to punish her by killing her.”

He told police he was amazed that she had not died when he had repeatedly kicked her and stamped on her head so he picked up the brick door stop, hitting her with it several times.

“I was feeling powerful and I was quite enjoying the experience.”

Judge Graham Cottle told him: “It was the excessive consumption of alcohol that night that was the trigger for you to act out your violent fantasies.

“You show no regret, no remorse, not a shred of emotion. There can be no doubt that you pose a very serious danger to the public.

“Whether you will ever be safe to release is a matter for serious conjecture.”

After the sentencing, a Devon and Cornwall Police spokesman said: “In convicting him today the court has made Devon and Cornwall a safer place and given Sharon’s family the opportunity to have closure on what has been an extremely distressing time.”