Friday 24 May 2024
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Crown Prosecution Service explains why there was ‘no realistic prospect of a murder conviction’ in Nottingham attacks case

An engineering graduate suffering from paranoid schizophrenia has been sentenced to a hospital order with restrictions (Thursday 25 January 2024) for the unlawful killings of three people and attempts to kill three others in June 2023.

Valdo Calocane, 32, also known as Adam Mendes, fatally stabbed students Barnaby Webber and Grace O’Malley-Kumar and caretaker Ian Coates in the early hours of Tuesday 13 June last year.

He had a history of serious mental health issues, including being sectioned on four separate occasions, and had regularly failed to co-operate with his treatment regimes. His condition included him having delusional feelings that his mind was being controlled by outside sources and that he was under constant surveillance.

The day before the attacks, Calocane returned from a brief visit to London, armed himself with knives and a metal pole and then concealed himself close to the centre of Nottingham. Earlier that day he had called his brother and told him he would not contact him again.

He attacked Barnaby and Grace on Ilkeston Road in the city at 4am. The attacks were brutal and tragically both were overcome by multiple stab wounds.

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Calocane then calmly walked away from the scene as eyewitnesses summoned the emergency services and tried to help the two victims. An hour later, having walked around Nottingham and contacted his brother again, Calocane then tried to gain access to a supported accommodation hostel, before attacking Ian Coates in his van, again using extreme violence. He took Ian’s van and drove towards the city centre. On Milton Street, he deliberately drove at Wayne Birkett, swerving across the road to target him, and then at Marcin Gawronski and Sharon Miller as they tried to cross the road on Market Street. After these attacks, police contained the van then Calocane was tasered and arrested.

Valdo Calocane was charged with three counts of murder and three counts of attempted murder within days of the attacks. Over the months that followed, he was assessed by three expert psychiatrists, instructed by the prosecution and the defence. They all concluded that he was suffering from a serious mental illness, namely paranoid schizophrenia, which led to an abnormality of mental functioning and impaired his ability to exercise self-control.

He believed there were voices in his head telling him to act in the way he did and that his family was at risk if he did not obey. These expert psychiatrists agreed that a partial defence to murder on the grounds of diminished responsibility, was available to Calocane.

In November 2023, Calocane pleaded guilty to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility in relation to the unlawful killings, as well as attempted murder for the three attacks using the van. At that point, the CPS took the unusual step of commissioning a fourth psychiatric expert to review the previous reports.

The fourth psychiatrist reviewed the evidence in detail, including the extensive mental health records, and agreed with the conclusions of the other psychiatrists ; namely that the partial defence of diminished responsibility was available to Calocane.

On the basis of this evidence, the CPS concluded that there was no realistic prospect of conviction for murder, so accepted the pleas. The court confirmed the acceptance of the pleas and Calocane was today given a hospital order with restrictions to protect the public. This means that Valdo Calocane will be detained at a high-security hospital for treatment, and will not be released until either the Secretary of State for Justice or a First Tier Tribunal assess that he no longer poses a risk to the public under Sections 37 and 41 Mental Health Act 1983.

Janine McKinney from the CPS said: “Valdo Calocane’s actions that morning sent shockwaves through our entire community. He left three bereaved families devastated by grief and others with life changing physical and emotional injuries. These were savage, ferocious attacks against entirely innocent people who had no way of defending themselves.

“His pleas to manslaughter were only accepted after very careful analysis of the evidence. We reached this conclusion because the expert medical evidence was overwhelming; namely that Calocane was acting under the influence of a serious mental health condition. During this lengthy and complex sentencing exercise, we have made it clear that Calocane was criminally responsible for what he did, regardless of the impact of his mental health on his culpability.

“My heartfelt sympathies go out to the families and loved ones of Grace, Barnaby, and Ian for this tragedy, and to Wayne Birkett, Marcin Gawronski and Sharon Miller for the ordeal that Calocane has put them through.”

Building the Case

Diminished responsibility is only a partial defence to murder. It is for the defendant to prove that it applies. When deciding whether to accept such a plea, the CPS must be satisfied that there is sufficient evidence that the defendant’s actions were sufficiently influenced by external factors and that a trial for murder would come to the same conclusion.

In this case, the evidence that Valdo Calocane’s actions and self-control were significantly impaired by a serious mental health condition, paranoid schizophrenia, was compelling. The evidence from four expert psychiatrics was subjected to a very thorough and detailed review. We reached the conclusion that there was no longer a realistic prospect of conviction for murder.

Part of the sentencing exercise was to determine the defendant’s level of culpability. The prosecution’s case was that although his actions and self-control were impaired, the defendant knew what he was doing was wrong. We presented evidence during sentencing of pre-planning, evidence that he had lain in wait for his victims and that he only stopped his attacks when detained and subdued by the police.

•  Police release timeline of their contact with Valdo Calocane

•  Valdo Calocane sentencing: Killer to ‘probably’ spend rest of his life in high-security hospital

•  Valdo Calocane: Judge ‘Satisfied with mental illness diagnosis’ – ‘Justice system failed us’ say families of victims

The prosecution also presented evidence of the defendant’s history of treatment, showing that he had, throughout his history of living with his condition, regularly failed to comply with treatment and actively tried to conceal symptoms of psychosis.

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