‘Paranoid’ man stabbed Westward Ho! electrician because he believed he was being persecuted by Jehovah’s Witnesses

PUBLISHED: 16:11 09 February 2018 | UPDATED: 15:26 15 February 2018

Keith Beviss has been sentenced to an indefinite hospital order for killing Philip Ryan.

Keith Beviss has been sentenced to an indefinite hospital order for killing Philip Ryan.

Archant

A paranoid man who believed he was being persecuted by Jehovah’s Witnesses has been detained in hospital after killing a Westward Ho! eletrician in a random attack at a Kingdom Hall in Honiton.

Keith Beviss went to Kingdom Hall in Honiton armed with a knife and attacked Philip Ryan, a complete stranger to him, who happened to be carrying out electrical work there.

Mr Ryan, aged 55, lived and ran a business in Westward Ho! but was a Jehovah’s Witness and had travelled to Honiton to carry out the job.

Exeter Crown Court heard the killing was the result of Beviss’s totally false belief the Jehovah’s Witnesses were spying on him and spreading false rumours about his sex life on the internet.

He was convinced the government and ‘the system’ were conspiring against him and thought his GP was part of the plot when he recommended treatment for his paranoid delusions.

Beviss claimed that Christian groups had told him he was wicked, evil and would go to hell and just before the killing he confronted a Jehovah’s Witness elder and told him ‘it’s all satanic’.

He was caught on CCTV as he drove his camper van to a car park near the hall in Honiton and walked to an from it while carrying a white carrier bag.

mhh Keith Beviss at Exeter Magistrates court June 8 2017. Picture: Elizabeth Cook mhh Keith Beviss at Exeter Magistrates court June 8 2017. Picture: Elizabeth Cook

The bag contained the knife before the attack but was empty when he returned and was found with Mr Ryan’s blood on it.

He handed himself in to police and said: “They have been humiliating me for months. I had to do it. I’m done for but it had to be done.”

Beviss said the Jehovah’s Witnesses had been saying things on the internet about him behaving in a sexually inappropriate way.

Beviss of Woodhayes Drive, Honiton, admitted manslaughter on grounds of diminished responsibility and was made subject of a hospital order by Judge Graham Cottle at Exeter Crown Court.

It means he will be detained at Fromeside Hospital in Bristol until he is deemed to be safe to release by doctors and the Ministry of Justice.

The judge told him: “This was a dreadful attack with a knife and he sustained a number of stab wounds from which he died at the scene.

Philip Ryan, from Westward Ho! was found dead in Honiton and a man has been charged with his murder. Philip Ryan, from Westward Ho! was found dead in Honiton and a man has been charged with his murder.

“You had developed a belief you were being persecuted by Jehovah’s Witnesses.

“This offence was inextricably linked to your mental disorder. I have to consider the best was to manage the risk you pose.”

Beviss shouted at the judge from the dock and said he wanted to go to jail rather than a mental hospital.

He said: “Give me 50 years, that way I’ll never come out. I will go on hunger strike. I will die.”

Simon Laws QC, prosecuting, said Beviss stabbed Mr Ryan to death at the Kingdom Hall in Dowell Street, Honiton, on the afternoon of Tuesday June 6, 2017.

He said: “The medical evidence shows that for some time he had been labouring under a delusion he was being persecuted by the Jehovah’s Witnesses. He was not.

The scene of a murder in Honiton. Ref mhh 23 17TI 4249. Picture: Terry Ife The scene of a murder in Honiton. Ref mhh 23 17TI 4249. Picture: Terry Ife

“While in the grip of the delusion he chose physical confrontation. He took a knife to the hall and attacked Mr Ryan.”

Mr Laws said Mr Ryan’s wife Sandra had made a victim impact statement.

He said: “She described in moving terms how each day the family suffer the pain and anguish of his loss.

“He was shortly to have celebrated 30 years with his wife. She speaks of a remarkable man who was very much loved and admired.

“He cared deeply for others and was always available to offer help.

“He was a patient, reliable, hard working, totally devoted husband.”

Keith Beviss. Keith Beviss.

Mr Laws said Beviss had ridden his motorcycle to the hall the Sunday before the killing and revved it up to blow exhaust fumes inside.

On the day of the attack he confronted an elder who was manning a leaflet stall in another part of Honiton before going to the hall and killing Mr Ryan.

He then walked to the police station to hand himself in but it was closed and he used the outside phone to dial 999, confessing to a woman police officer when they arrived.

Psychiatrists Dr Victoria Thom and John Sandford said Beviss was suffering from a delusional disorder at the time which reduced his responsibility for his actions greatly.

Richard Smith QC, defending, said: “It is clear from the medical evidence that his culpability was very low.”

DS Martin Sutcliffe, who led the investigation, said following the hearing: “The Major Crime Team have conducted an in-depth investigation into the tragic death of Mr Ryan.

Keith Beviss. Keith Beviss.

“The enquiries have not just looked at the circumstances leading to his death but also the mental health of the Keith Beviss during the time of the unprovoked attack.

“The prosecution and defence both appointed experts to assess Mr Beviss’s mental state at the time of the offence and there was complete agreement that it played a substantial part in him carrying out this terrible act.

“It is clearly an extremely sad case that has impacted immeasurably on his family and of course our thoughts remain firmly with them.”

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