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Mentally ill son detained for killing his father after escaping from ward

A general view of Swansea Crown Court in Swansea, south Wales.
A general view of Swansea Crown Court in Swansea, south Wales.

A son absconded from a mental health unit and fatally attacked his father just an hour later, a court heard.

Daniel Harrison, 37, punched, kicked and stamped on Dr Kim Harrison, 68, during a sustained assault at the family home in Clydach, Swansea.

Harrison had become increasingly paranoid and believed his mother, Jane, was in danger from her husband and needed protecting.

Dr Kim Harrison died after being attacked by his son Daniel (South Wales Police/PA)
Dr Kim Harrison died after being attacked by his son Daniel (South Wales Police/PA)

Swansea Crown Court heard Harrison had been detained under the Mental Health Act at Neath Port Talbot Hospital just 10 days before the assault because of “severe” aggression towards his parents.

His mental health had been deteriorating since 2018 and he had stopped taking his medication.

Harrison, who had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia aged 22, fled from the ward on the afternoon of March 12 this year when a nurse using a swipe card opened a secure door.

He barged past her and ran from the hospital and took a taxi to the centre of Clydach before walking to his parents’ home at Conniston Hall.

Staff at the ward phoned Mrs Harrison to warn her that her son had absconded, and she and her husband locked all the windows and doors – fearing for their safety.

When he arrived, Mrs Harrison went to the library to phone the police and as she made the call, she heard her husband unlocking the back door to let her son in.

William Hughes QC, prosecuting, said: “She did not hear any voices or noises during the five minutes she was in the library.

“She went into the kitchen and there she saw her husband laying on his back. She could see he had shocking facial injuries.”

After the attack, Harrison fled on foot and took a bus to Swansea railway station where he caught a train to London and was arrested two days later.

Harrison told police he felt “manipulated” by his parents and his father had caused him “trauma”.

“He said he attacked his father punching him in the face, and then throwing him to the floor and punching and kicking him to the head,” Mr Hughes said.

“He also told the police he had used a broom handle he found lying on the floor. He also stated he stood on his father’s throat with his shoes on and stamped on his face with the heel of his shoe.

“As he assaulted him, he told police he had shouted abuse at his father calling him a ‘f****** c***’. He said later he had attempted to kill his father.”

Mr Harrison, a retired specialist in pulmonary fibrosis, died on April 9 from blunt force trauma to the head and neck.

The defendant had denied murder but admitted manslaughter by reason of diminished responsibility.

The Crown accepted the plea having heard evidence from two psychiatrists that Harrison was suffering from an abnormality of mental functioning at the time of the killing and had “persecutory delusional beliefs”.

John Hipkin QC, defending, did not offer any personal mitigation on behalf of Harrison.

Judge Paul Thomas QC imposed hospital orders under Section 37 and 41 of the Mental Health Act – meaning Harrison will be detained indefinitely in a secure unit.

“This is an utterly tragic case on so many levels – a son killing his father in the family home,” he said.

“That, however, does not begin to explain the depth of the tragedy here.

“It is clear from all of the material in front of me that Mr Harrison has been suffering for some 15 years from paranoid schizophrenia.

“That led to the forming of deluded beliefs about his father. It led to a significant abnormality of his mental function as a result of serious mental illness.

“His persecutory delusional beliefs extended to a wholly irrational concern for his mother’s safety and led to what then eventuated.”

The judge added: “It may well be that Mr Harrison will never in fact be considered sufficiently safe to return to live in the community and that is a matter for the clinical judgment of those under whose care he will be.”

The Harrison family said in a statement: “As a family we are struggling to comprehend why it has taken the loss of Kim’s life for Dan to finally receive confirmation of his long-standing diagnosis.

“We are greatly relieved that this has enabled him to receive the professional support and restart the treatment he has desperately needed for the past two years.

“As a family we now wish to be given the time and space to grieve, to process events and to find a way of living without Kim – our much loved husband, father and brother.

“We shall continue to love and support Dan in whatever way is best for him and for our future family life.”

A Swansea Bay University Health Board spokeswoman said: “The distressing circumstances of this case are truly tragic, and our thoughts remain with Jane and her family.

“We offer them our deepest condolences. It is important that a thorough review of the circumstances leading up to Kim’s tragic death is carried out.

“We will continue to cooperate as closely as possible with the coroner’s investigation, which will now proceed following the conclusion of the criminal proceedings.”