Mentally ill man who killed friends is detained — (The Telegraph)

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SSRI Stories Summary – Sean Crone grew up in a dysfunctional home with poor parenting, according to the NHS report.  In his teens he engages in risky behaviour and takes illegal drugs.  As a young adult, he is “directionless” and unreliable, uses illegal drugs and smokes pot every day, but his lawbreaking is minor and non-violent (e.g. driving without a licence or insurance).  In April, 2003 he is prescribed Prozac for reasons that are not made clear.  After that, his problems become more serious.  He becomes paranoid and argumentative.   In September he is involved in a violent incident with an asylum seeker.  In early Oct his mother complains to mental health services that he has become paranoid and uncooperative and she tries to get him committed.  Nobody wonders whether the Prozac could be causing the deterioration. On Oct 30, he kills two close friends in a very violent manner.  At some point after the killings, he is diagnosed with a mental illness – paranoid schizophrenia.  The press duly report this as legitimate, and the Prozac (fluoxetine) is never mentioned, ley alone considered as a potential contributing or causal factor in events.

The Telegraph

By Paul Stokes

12:01AM GMT 06 Jan 2005

A mentally ill man who killed two friends as his mother desperately sought medical help for him was sent to top-security Rampton Hospital without time limit yesterday.

Sean Crone, 26, launched a “ferocious” attack with two kitchen knives on Ian Lawson, 25, after inviting him to his flat in Sunderland to cut cannabis plants he had grown.

Mr Lawson crawled across the street before dying, Sheffield Crown Court heard.

Crone told police “everything went a bit funny”. He had felt Mr Lawson staring at him, became frightened and “hit” him with the knives.

Blood-stained, he walked to a nearby street where his best friend, Simon Richardson, 27, lived. When voices told him to kill Mr Richardson, he took a plastic razor from the bathroom and slit his friend’s throat, said Jeremy Goss, QC, prosecuting.

Crone, diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia by three psychiatrists, admitted manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility.

Crone, who had smoked cannabis since he was 14 and taken other drugs, showed signs of the illness at 16 but only ever received a short spell of hospital treatment.

David Robson, QC, for Crone, said that in the days before the killings in October 2003 his mother had made “strenuous” efforts to seek medical and psychiatric help for her son.


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On 30 October 2003, Sean Crone killed Ian Lawson and Simon Richardson in the course of two separate unprovoked attacks. At the time of the killings Ian Lawson and Simon Richardson were respectively 25 and 27 years old. Sean Crone was 25 years old. All three young men were known to each other, having attended the same school. Sean Crone had thereafter continued to have some intermittent social contact with each of the victims…

Upon Sean Crone’s arrest for the alleged murder of Ian Lawson and Simon Richardson he was not immediately diagnosed as suffering from a mental illness. During the course of the months that followed, however, an unequivocal diagnosis was reached by consultant psychiatrists instructed by both the defence and prosecution that Sean Crone was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia. The criminal court accepted this evidence and as a consequence, Sean Crone’s pleas of guilty to the manslaughter of Ian Lawson and Simon Richardson were accepted. Sean Crone was made subject to a hospital order, without limit of time.

During the course of his detention at Rampton Secure Hospital, a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia in relation to Sean Crone has been confirmed.


(i) Sean Crone’s early years were marked by behavioural problems which are likely to have had their origins in the disharmony and domestic violence in his parents’ relationship, to which he was exposed. From an early age there was an absence of a father figure. Sean Crone’s mother clearly struggled to maintain control of him.

(ii) Sean Crone’s anti-social, anti-authoritarian and risk-taking behaviour reflected an absence of adequate parental boundaries. Sean Crone repeatedly defied his mother’s attempts to impose parental control. The seriousness of the situation was evidenced by the incident when he truanted from school and injured himself in a local quarry.

(Page 54) On 27 February 2003, Sean Crone appeared before Sunderland Magistrates’ Court in respect of offences of driving whilst disqualified, driving with no insurance and failing to surrender to bail. The offences had been committed in January 2003. The court adjourned the case and requested a pre-sentence report indicating that all sentencing options (including custody) were open.

On 13 March 2003, probation officer 5 prepared a pre-sentence report in relation to the offences of driving whilst disqualified and driving with no insurance. The report was based upon three interviews with Sean Crone and a conversation with GP2. The report described how Sean Crone had purchased a car cheaply in the full knowledge that he only had a provisional licence and that he did not have insurance. Sean Crone justified his actions by stating that it was cheaper to maintain a car than to rely upon public transport. Furthermore, he stated that he enjoyed driving and felt that it helped him escape from feelings of depression. He felt focussed and “awake” when driving and considered himself to be a good driver…

The report indicated that whilst Sean Crone’s life appeared to be directionless, he described some positive pastimes including regular weekly contact with his child, jogging and taking his dog for walks. He described moderate alcohol consumption and watching DVDs with friends, most of whom were not offenders. The report concluded that there was no evidence to suggest that Sean Crone posed a risk of serious harm either to himself or the public. His previous convictions did not indicate that the most recent offences were part of an emerging pattern or an escalation of seriousness in his offending. The report concluded with a recommendation that an electronic curfew order would be an appropriate sentence for the court to consider imposing in relation to these offences.

On 21 March 2003, Sean Crone appeared before Sunderland magistrates. His case was adjourned because the court considered that “all options” (including custody) had not been addressed in the probation pre-sentence report of 13 March 2003 and the failure to attend court on 21 February had not been addressed in the pre-sentence report.

On 24 March and 28 March 2003, Sean Crone failed to attend appointments that had been made for him to see his GP…

(Page 54) On 10 April 2003, Sean Crone attended an appointment at his GP’s surgery. He was seen by GP3. The note in Sean Crone’s GP records in relation to this consultation states, “patient to phone psychiatrist for another appointment”. Sean Crone was prescribed a 28 day course of the antidepressant medication fluoxetine (20 mg) (Prozac).

(Page 60) (iii) The probation service’s management of Sean Crone during this period has to be set in the context of the relatively unexceptional nature of Sean Crone’s offending at this period [24 December 2002 – 12 August 2003] and its own assessment of risk, which did not identify any major concerns. Having established that Sean Crone had been referred for mental health assessment by his GP but had failed to attend for appointments and had no interest in receiving treatment, the probation service may have considered that there was little more that it could do to persuade Sean Crone to engage with mental health services.

(Page 62) 6. NARRATIVE OF KEY DATES AND EVENTS 13 August 2003 – 30 October 2003

On 17 September 2003, Sean Crone was allegedly involved in a violent incident involving a male asylum seeker. He was said to have approached the victim shouting at him that he should leave the country and go back home.  He then threw a bicycle at the man before picking it up and riding off on it. Sean Crone was never spoken to by the police or arrested in relation to this alleged incident but witness statements taken subsequently, linked him with it…

On an unspecified date in October 2003, a female witness observed Sean Crone mixing cannabis and LSD in a joint.  He explained to her that it was a “trip”.  He stated that someone had “spiked” him a week earlier and that he intended to use the “trip” to get his own back on that person.

Sean Crone was described by another witness to have been very open about his drug taking and was observed on one occasion walking along the street with a cannabis plant in his hand…

On Saturday 25 October 2003, Sean Crone was seen by a male witness at about 11.00 am in the vicinity of Ramillies Road in Sunderland.  Sean Crone stepped out without looking in front of the car that the witness was driving, causing him to brake suddenly.  The witness considered that Sean Crone appeared to be under the influence of drugs.

On Sunday 26 October 2003, Sean Crone’s mother telephoned the accident and emergency department at Sunderland Royal Hospital at 1.20 am to inform the hospital that Sean Crone had arrived at her home.  She was advised that he should have nothing to eat or drink in anticipation of him undergoing surgery later that day.  She was advised to telephone the hospital later in the morning.

In a witness statement provided to the police after the deaths of Ian Lawson and Simon Richardson, a female friend of Sean Crone recalled him stating that he had left hospital because he was petrified that the doctors would sexually interfere with him whilst he was under general anaesthetic and he wouldn’t be able to protect himself.

At 1.00 pm on 26 October 2003, Sean Crone returned to the orthopaedic ward in the company of his mother.  A note in the nursing notes indicates that he was due to attend theatre later that day.  He was observed to be restless and agitated and shortly afterwards left the hospital.  Consultant orthopaedic surgeon 1 spoke to Sean Crone’s mother and advised her that if she could get him to return to the ward the following day he would be able to have his surgery.  Oral antibiotics were prescribed for Sean Crone and handed to his mother.  Both Sean Crone’s mother and Sean Crone told the inquiry panel that he did not comply with this treatment as he feared he was being poisoned.  Sean Crone did not at any stage return to hospital for the surgery that had been deemed necessary to his hand.

Sean Crone’s mother …stated that on 26 October 2006 she had expressed her concerns to consultant orthopaedic surgeon 1 and to the sister on the ward, who she stated shared her concerns and told her that an attempt would be made to obtain some psychiatric help for Sean Crone from within the hospital, but that he had absconded before any such help had materialised.  There is no record in the hospital notes of this conversation and consultant orthopaedic surgeon 1 informed the inquiry panel that he had no recollection of this conversation, or indeed of Sean Crone’s admission to hospital.  On the same day Sean Crone was seen by a male witness walking along Ringwood Road in Sunderland.  He appeared to have a blank expression on his face and didn’t recognise the witness, who was known to him.  The witness formed the impression that Sean Crone was under the influence of drugs.

On Monday 27 October 2003, a letter was sent by the orthopaedic and fracture clinic at Sunderland Royal Hospital offering Sean Crone an out-patient appointment at 9.55 am on 11 November 2003.

On Tuesday 28 October 2003, Sean Crone’s mother telephoned Cherry Knowle Hospital at 8.20 am and spoke to the senior nurse on call.  The Cherry Knowle contemporaneous notes of the telephone conversation state, “Phone call from a lady whose son was admitted 10 years ago due to a drug-induced psychosis and was admitted to the East Willows ward and discharged with no follow-up.  States that he has become paranoid and unco-operative and she is unable to cope.  Has been to casualty with no result.  Advised to see a GP urgently this morning and request referral to psychiatrist today so that he could be assessed.”

On 29 October 2003, there is no record of Sean Crone’s mother making contact with any of the health professionals in relation to Sean Crone’s condition.  In a police statement made after the killings she described how Sean Crone had returned to live in his flat and that she had visited him there after having driven around in search of him, as she was concerned for his well-being.  She stated that she was disgusted with the condition of the property.  There were cannabis plants distributed around the property and all the doors were open.  Sean Crone came into the property whilst she was present and she prevailed upon him to return home with her and he did so.  Later that evening, however, at about 9.45 pm he returned to his own flat to feed the cannabis plants.

At about midday, a female witness who had known Sean Crone for many years, having attended school with him, met Sean Crone out in the community and spoke with him.  She informed Sean Crone about a friend of hers who was interested in buying some cannabis.  Sean Crone agreed to come to her property at 5.00 pm in order to sell this man some cannabis.  She formed the impression that Sean Crone may possibly have been under the influence of cannabis as he was hard to talk to and was mumbling and she was aware that he smoked cannabis on a daily basis.  During this conversation, Sean Crone told her that he was worried about attending the hospital in relation to his hand in case the doctor sexually interfered with him.

Sean Crone’s paternal grandparents informed the inquiry panel that on the day before the offences (29 October 2003) Sean Crone had arrived at their home with his mother’s dogs.  Both he and the dogs were dirty and covered in mud.  They described how he appeared to be “in a different world” and that he had allowed the muddy dogs into the house which caused them to remonstrate with him…

On Thursday 30 October 2003, Sean Crone’s mother telephoned the surgery of GP2 to enquire if the surgery staff were sure that the referral to Cherry Knowle Hospital had been made…

On 30 October 2003, Sean Crone was observed in a significant number of different locations throughout both the day and evening by witnesses who later provided police statements.  At 11.00 am, he was seen by a female witness entering off licence premises on Redmond Road in Sunderland.  He laughed and joked with her.  She described him as being “hyper and excited” but stated that this was how he normally presented.

At 11.30 am, a male witness saw Sean Crone in a hairdresser’s shop in Southwick.  Sean Crone spoke with him and stated “I’m out of it.”  Sean Crone appeared to be very sleepy or drowsy.  His speech was slow and slurred.  From Sean Crone’s demeanour, the witness concluded that Sean Crone had taken drugs.  Sean Crone remained in the hairdresser’s for only five minutes and left without having his hair cut.  He told the witness that he intended to go to Springs Leisure Centre for a massage.  His appearance appeared unkempt which was in contrast with his usually clean and tidy presentation.  As he left the premises, the hairdresser commented to the witness that Sean Crone looked “out of it” i.e. under the influence of drink or drugs.

Between 1.30 and 2.30 pm, Sean Crone called in to see one of his brothers at his flat.  His brother didn’t consider that Sean Crone’s behaviour that day was out of the ordinary and they didn’t talk about anything in particular.  He could not recall how long Sean Crone stayed.  He described, however, that in the course of the previous week and a half he believed Sean Crone’s behaviour had deteriorated and, in his opinion, was similar to that immediately prior to his admission to Cherry Knowle Hospital in 1994…

At about 3.45 pm, he came back to the reception desk at the leisure centre and indicated that he was a little late for his appointment.  He was reminded that the appointment was not until 4.30 pm.  He replied “I need to be out by 5.”  Staff at the leisure centre became reluctant to deal with Sean Crone as his behaviour was by then giving cause for concern…

At approximately 4.00 pm, Sean Crone was observed in the lounge area drinking a pint of lager and laughing at himself.  He finished his drink and then ordered another one.  At 4.45 pm the man who was booked in arrived at the leisure centre for his appointment and the staff realised that Sean Crone didn’t have an appointment.  Sean Crone left the leisure centre at about 4.45 pm.  He was noted to be staring at a female member of staff as he left the premises.

At 5.00 pm, Sean Crone was observed by a male witness in Quincey’s restaurant.  He was noted to be behaving in a strange manner, pointing and shooting an imaginary handgun in the direction of Springs Leisure Centre.  He appeared to be muttering something, but the witness could not ascertain what this was.  Sean Crone spoke to the witness, inquiring what he was eating and whether the food was “OK”.  Whilst on the premises Sean Crone was observed to be asking customers and staff for cigarettes which he would pay for.  Staff became concerned that Sean Crone may have been offering drugs to some customers although there were no direct observations of him doing so.  During the time that he was in the restaurant he consumed two pints of Kronenburg lager.  He left at about 6.00 pm.  Before doing so, he requested the staff to order him a taxi stating that he wanted to go “anywhere”.  It appears, however, that the request for a taxi was not pursued by him.

At approximately 6.00 pm, Sean Crone was seen by a female witness walking from the direction of Retford Road towards Rhodesia Road.  He spoke to her briefly.  She did not notice anything particularly untoward in his demeanour.

Between 6.30 pm and 7.00 pm Sean Crone attended the home of a family known to him on the Redhouse Estate.  Whilst at the house he was offered and accepted a bottle of Holstein lager.  He appeared to be cheerful and talkative…

At about 8.00 pm, Sean Crone was observed in the Shipwrights public house.  He was seen ordering a pint of lager and a whisky.  Also present was Ian Lawson.  Witnesses describe the two men speaking to each other.  At one point a witness overheard Sean Crone talking to himself saying “get us to sleep tonight” whilst looking at his pint of lager.  According to witnesses there did not appear to be any ill feeling between Sean Crone and Ian Lawson whilst they were at the public house.

As the evening progressed Sean Crone was overheard inviting Ian Lawson back to his flat.  He stated that he had a lot of cannabis plants and invited Ian Lawson to go with him to help chop them up.  There are accounts that indicate that Ian Lawson had been in the public house since lunchtime and had been drinking heavily.  Shortly before leaving the public house, Ian Lawson purchased two cans of lager to take out.  The two men left together at about 10.00 pm.

Shortly after leaving the Shipwrights public house, Sean Crone made a very brief visit to his mother’s home and was seen briefly by his mother.  This had been her only contact with him that day His sister, who saw him during the course of this visit, described his behaviour as being “all right”.  She did not consider him to be agitated in any way.  This proved to be the last sighting of Sean Crone by a third party before the violent events of 30 October 2003.

The extent of Sean Crone’s consumption of alcohol on 30 October 2003 could not be scientifically established due to the absence of a contemporaneous blood test, but there are eye witness accounts which describe Sean Crone drinking heavily throughout the day.

From the witness statements taken by the police from third parties, it is likely that Sean Crone had consumed a minimum of six pints of lager and one measure of whisky.

Sean Crone told the investigating police officers that Ian Lawson had accompanied him back to his flat and that the two men had harvested his cannabis plants with scissors.  He described how he had smoked a couple of “joints” of cannabis before returning to his flat.  Whilst at the flat he described how Ian Lawson had taken two tablets of a drug with a microdot appearance.  Sean Crone stated that he himself did not take any of these other drugs as he wanted to be in a fit condition to cut up the plants.  He described how he became increasingly afraid of Ian Lawson stating that Ian Lawson’s “face went all funny“ and his eyes were red.  He said that he had thought that Ian Lawson was advancing towards him in what he perceived to be a menacing manner.  Sean Crone told the inquiry panel that he recalls hearing voices at the time that he carried out the attack.  He admitted repeatedly stabbing Ian Lawson with a kitchen knife.  He then chased Ian Lawson out of the house into the street outside.  Ian Lawson, who was by now seriously injured, was able to reach a neighbouring property and banged on the door.  When the occupier opened the door at about 10.20 pm he observed Ian Lawson collapse onto the ground.  As the man was telephoning for the police and an ambulance he heard the raised voice of Sean Crone outside, who was talking in an aggressive manner.  When the man challenged Sean Crone as to whether he was responsible for Ian Lawson’s injuries, Sean Crone shouted back in a threatening manner “I know you’ve got a young daughter” before jumping over a small wall in an agitated manner and running away.  Ian Lawson died shortly thereafter, before any medical assistance could be tendered.  He was later found to have sustained 24 stab wounds to his body.

After running from the scene, Sean Crone went to the property occupied by Simon Richardson at Rutherglen Square in Sunderland.  There is no independent evidence as to what then transpired.  Simon Richardson’s body was found lying on the doorstep at 5.20 am the following day.  A subsequent post-mortem examination of Simon Richardson’s body revealed a number of lacerations.  There were multiple wounds to the neck and one significant wound which had damaged a medium sized vein in the neck.  As stated in the introduction to this report, Sean Crone informed the panel when he was interviewed in the course of the inquiry that he had dismantled a disposable razor taken from Simon Richardson’s bathroom before carrying out the attack.  He could provide no motive or explanation as to why he had killed Simon Richardson, other than he was hearing voices at the time.

Sean Crone was arrested by police in the early hours of 31 October 2003.  This occurred before the discovery of the body of Simon Richardson.  At first, the police investigating the two killings were unsure as to whether or not they were connected.

On 31 October 2003, at 12.50 pm Sean Crone was seen by consultant psychiatrist 3 at Gilbridge Police Station, Sunderland for the purposes of a psychiatric assessment as to Sean Crone’s fitness or otherwise to be interviewed by the police.  During the course of the examination, Sean Crone denied any responsibility for either of the killings and stated that he did not know why he had been arrested, although he appeared to have some recollection of the moment of his arrest.  He stated that he was unaware as to how his clothing was blood-stained.  He refused to answer a number of questions put to him and he demanded proof of the identity of consultant psychiatrist 3.  The assessment of consultant psychiatrist 3 concluded that Sean Crone’s speech presented as rational and coherent, but his demeanour was rather hostile and mildly agitated.  It was difficult for consultant psychiatrist 3 to fully explore Sean Crone’s thought process due to a lack of co-operation on his part.  Consultant psychiatrist 3 considered that the content of Sean Crone’s thought process may be paranoid, ie hostile, irritable and angry, and that this may account for his lack of co-operation.

Consultant psychiatrist 3 formed the opinion that Sean Crone may have been under the influence of illicit drugs at the time of the assessment and advised that tests should be undertaken for such substances as soon as possible (preferably that same day).

Consultant psychiatrist 3 considered that Sean Crone could be interviewed by the police but that any such interview would not lead to substantial positive information due to Sean Crone’s mental state.  He believed that if further time was allowed to elapse, Sean Crone would become more settled and regain insight into events leading up to his arrest.  He suggested that it may be appropriate to undertake a further psychiatric assessment in the course of the next 24 – 72 hours.

Consultant psychiatrist 3 informed the inquiry panel that he considered that under normal circumstances Sean Crone’s presentation at the police station would have warranted his admission to hospital for assessment, if necessary as an involuntary patient pursuant to the Mental Health Act 1983.

At 4.15 pm on 31 October 2003, police officers interviewed Sean Crone in relation to the killing of Ian Lawson.  He claimed to have no recollection as to why or how he had been arrested or any explanation for the blood on his clothing.  He was able to recall some aspects of the days leading up to his arrest but said the last time he had spoken to Ian Lawson had been about two months ago.

At 9.20 pm on 31 October 2003, Sean Crone was further interviewed by the police.  He gave an account of his movements on 30 October 2003.  He described visiting Springs Leisure Centre and then meeting Ian Lawson in the Shipwrights public house.  He went on to describe how he had become scared of Ian Lawson whilst the two men were cutting up the cannabis plants at his flat.  He admitted killing Ian Lawson in the circumstances described earlier in this report.

On 1 November 2003 at 9.31 am, Sean Crone was interviewed by police officers and repeated his admission to having killed Ian Lawson.

(Page 94) Following Sean Crone’s remand into custody and subsequent transfer to hospital it has been established that he suffers from a severe long-term mental illness in the form of paranoid schizophrenia. This is characterised by disturbances in his thinking, particularly the presence of firmly held paranoid beliefs, disturbance of mood and abnormal perceptions, such as hearing voices.

Assessment of Sean Crone some six weeks after his remand into custody was prompted by his quite evidently disturbed and bizarre behaviour. Although there were strong indicators that his mental state was abnormal it was still not possible to reach a clear diagnosis and it was only some three months after his remand into custody that he described hearing voices and paranoid ideas that he was going to be killed. He also described having thoughts in his head which were not his own. It was at this stage that antipsychotic medication was commenced and he was subsequently referred to hospital.

It is reasonable to assume that his deteriorating mental state in the weeks prior to the offences represented worsening symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia. It is, however, of considerable note that Sean Crone was assessed immediately after the offences on a number of occasions by a consultant psychiatrist. Although there were features of his presentation which suggested an abnormal mental state, none of the clear cut diagnostic symptoms of schizophrenia were elicited. It seems likely that Sean Crone was experiencing symptoms of illness at this time but was not disclosing them. This also continued to be the case in the early part of his remand in custody and it was only some months later that a definitive diagnosis of a severe mental illness was made and treatment instigated.