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13:05, 7 JAN 2019 UPDATED 13:27, 7 JAN 2019
Kevin Gale is accused of the murder of Lee Turner in Barnstaple. Doctors say he is too ill to stand trial and jury must decide what happened.
A paranoid schizophrenic who had ‘slipped through the cracks’ of mental health care stabbed to death a shopper leaving Tesco in Barnstaple, a court has heard.
Kevin Gale, 50, suffered from delusions and serious mental health issues when he allegedly attacked Lee Turner, 39, outside the store in August last year.
His ex-wife, daughter and sister had repeatedly warned the mental health crisis team about his increasingly bizarre behaviour but little was done, Exeter Crown Court was told.
Gale, who has asked to be known as Mr Kit Kat, has been charged with murder but doctors have decided he is unfit to stand trial. A jury has been asked to decide, based on all the evidence, whether he killed Mr Turner.
Prosecutor Mr Sean Brunton QC said the incident happened just after 6pm on August 3.
Mr Turner went to Tesco to buy some milk and was leaving the store when he walked past Gale on his way in.
Both men had a ‘distinctive appearance’ said the prosecutor.
Gale was wearing a bright blue bandanna, shorts, knee-length black and yellow socks and silver boots. Mr Turner was bare-chested.
As the men walked by one another on the zebra crossing CCTV showed them appearing to exchange words.
Mr Brunton said it is not known what they said to one another but it may have been a provocative or unkind comment about what Gale was wearing.
“We know Mr Turner walked off bare-chested away from the store across the car park in the direction of Costa Coffee,” said Mr Brunton.
“As he does so this defendant stops in the foyer at the front of the supermarket and takes off his small rucksack.”
The prosecution say that an agitated Gale took a knife from the rucksack and turned to follow Mr Turner. About 100m from the store he hit him on the back, it is alleged.
“What Mr Turner did not know was that in his hand Kevin Gale had a steel throwing knife’, said Mr Brunton.
The knife had a 9cm blade and ‘rather than just hitting him on the back what the defendant was doing was stabbing Mr Turner four times into his back, shoulder and chest area’.
Mr Turner staggered a few steps before falling to the ground. Members of the public called 999 and an ambulance arrived quickly. The injured man was taken to hospital but died of catastrophic blood loss that day. Three of the stab wounds had penetrated his chest cavity to the depth of 6cm.
Mr Brunton said there was nothing doctors could do to save him.
The prosecution say CCTV shows Gale calmly walking home. Members of the public remember seeing a man wearing his distinctive clothing walking through the town centre and across Long Bridge.
Gale was arrested in the early hours of the next morning at his home in Rackfield Court. He had not changed his clothing and large parts of the house, including the walls and furniture, were daubed in white paint. It was clear he was suffering from some form of mental illness, making bizarre screaming and humming noises. Women’s clothing and other weapons were found at the address.
The prosecution added that the knife used to kill Mr Turner was found close to Costa. DNA of the defendant and blood from the victim was found on the weapon. Two identical ‘Spider-man type’ throwing knives were found hidden at the defendant’s home.
Mr Brunton told the jury there was no doubt the weapon found near Costa was the murder weapon and no doubt the defendant ‘was the one wielding it’.
“The prosecution say that when you take all the evidence, the CCTV the DNA, the eyewitness accounts, it would be beyond question the defendant is responsible for stabbing Lee Turner,” said Mr Brunton.
The prosecutor said Gale had been a happily married man until the 1990s when his mental health started to deteriorate.
He had been under the care of a mental health crisis team since at least 2011 but stopped taking his medication after his key worker left and the relationship with his support team broke down.
“He stopped taking his medication and there was nobody to see it happening,” he said.
When his family tried to raise concerns they received ‘little or no support’.
Shortly before the alleged murder Gale lost all contact with his family.
“This was a man seriously out of control and who somehow slipped between the cracks of medical and psychological care,” said Mr Brunton.
Judge Peter Johnson told the jury it was a unusual trial because it was not the job of the jury to decide whether the defendant, who was not present in court and is being held at a secure unit, is guilty or not guilty.
The issue is whether he committed the act of killing or not.
When police questioned Gale he said three women had given him the knife and one of the women had stabbed Mr Turner. The prosecution say this account is completely false and demonstrates the defendant’s bizarre state of mind.
The case continues.