A mental patient stabbed a complete stranger to death with a Spider-Man knife in Barnstaple Tesco Extra car park after he ‘fell through the cracks’ in the health system, a court was told on Monday (January 7).

Kevin Gale had lost contact with the crisis team and his key worker and stopped taking his medication before he attacked and killed Lee Turner on the evening of August 3 last year, the court heard.

Gale, aged 50, of Rackfield Court, Barnstaple, is accused of murder.

He is now being treated at Langdon Hospital in Dawlish and has been assessed as unfit to plead.

He was not in the dock at Exeter Crown Court, where during a three day hearing the jury will decide whether he committed the act.

The court heard he suffered from paranoid schizophrenia, thought his name was Mr Kitkat, and believed Mr Turner had given him a strange look as they passed on a zebra crossing outside the Tesco superstore.

Mr Turner, aged 39, had just bought two bottles of milk and was walking away from the shop. Gale went just inside the doors, stopped, and took the weapon from his rucksack.

He followed Mr Turner across the car park and stabbed him four times in the back without warning, causing fatal injuries from which he died in North Devon District Hospital soon afterwards.

The build up to the attack was caught on CCTV at the supermarket which showed Gale wearing a bizarre outfit which may have led Mr Turner to glance at him as they passed.

Gale had a bright blue bandana around his head, silver boots, black and yellow knee length socks, and black shorts and top.

He dropped the blood soaked knife near the Costa Coffee shop in the car park and walked home through the centre of Barnstaple as if nothing had happened.

Sean Brunton, QC, prosecuting, said witnesses thought Gale was hitting My Turner on the back because they could not see the Spider-Man throwing knife in his hand.

He said the knife was found nearby and had the victim’s blood on it. Two similar knives were found inside the speakers at his home.

He said: “He suddenly decided to go after Mr Turner, attack him and kill him. This is as clear a case of murder as you are likely to see, except that Mr Gale has real problems of mental health.”

Mr Brunton said these dated back to the 1990s and led to the breakdown of Gale’s marriage and to him living an isolated life in Barnstaple.

He said they had been managed successfully for a considerable time until his key worker with the crisis team had moved on and not been replaced satisfactorily.

Gale’s sister and other members of his family tried to get him help from the mental health service without success and in the weeks before the killing he was seen acting eccentrically around Barnstaple.

Mr Brunton said: “He stopped taking his medication and there was nobody to see what was happening. When his sister tried to contact the crisis team about her brother’s treatment, she received little or no support.

“We say this was a man who was seriously out of control and who fell between the cracks of any medical or psychiatric care.”

Mr Brunton said police found several weapons including a Samurai sword at Gale’s home, along with items of women’s clothing.

He told police Mr Turner had ‘given him a strange look’ as they passed each other on the way into Tesco but claimed the killing had been carried out by three mystery women, who had attacked him with a taser and planted the knife on him.

Judge Peter Johnson has told the jury they will not be asked to assess Gale’s guilt or innocence, but instead to decide if they are sure he committed the act.

It is accepted that he was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia and delusions at the time of the killing and two consultant forensic psychiatrists have ruled he is unfit to plead or to stand trial because of the severity of his illness.

Richard Crabb, defending, told the jury that Gale now likes to be known as Kitkat.

The hearing continues.