Autistic Devon teen who stabbed mother sent to secure unit

Exeter Crown Court. Picture: Archant

Exeter Crown Court. Picture: Archant - Credit: Archant

A 14-year-old autistic boy who tried to kill his mother as she gave him a goodnight hug at their North Devon home has been sent to an adolescent mental unit.

The boy used a kitchen knife which he had hidden in his bedroom to stab his mother 15 times in the neck, back, arms and head, leaving her with serious spinal injuries.

She only survived because her sister, who was staying in the house, heard her screams and pushed the boy off her as he straddled her body and delivered more blows.

His mother was airlifted to Derriford Hospital and only survived through life-saving surgery. She remains partially paralysed and in a wheelchair almost five months after the attack.

He son suffers from autism, had been out of mainstream education for two years, and spent almost all that time on his own in his bedroom playing computer games.

His mother had spent years trying to get more support and better treatment for his autism and mental health problems.

She made a victim statement saying she cannot understand why he attacker her and asking ‘Was I that bad as a mum?’

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The son later told a psychiatrist that he had decided to kill his mother rather than talking to her ‘for some dumbass reason’.

He will now be cared for in a specialist psychiatric unit on the south coast after a judge at Exeter Crown Court imposed a hospital order instead of detention.

The boy, who is still only 14, admitted attempted murder and was ordered to remain at the hospital until doctors and the Ministry of Justice consider him safe for release.

Judge Peter Johnson made an order preventing him being identified because of his age and said he hoped that in time the boy would be able to live a normal adult life.

He told him: "Everyone has enormous sympathy with your mother, who is struggling not only with the physical wounds and the mental effect of those but is struggling to get to grips with why you tried to kill her.

“You had developmental problems that led to isolation and you spending your time playing computer games, which was not only unhealthy but also damaging.

“It is clear you had been thinking about killing your mother for some months. You were unable to process your thoughts and became fixated.

“This was a wholly unexpected, savage attack, which nearly led to your mother’s death. Following treatment, you now show regret and have apologised.

“It is clear to me you are dangerous at the moment. While there are no previous convictions, this was a shockingly violent, out of the blue attack.”

Adrian Chaplin, prosecuting, said the mother had been trying to talk through her son’s problems with him earlier in the evening of September 1 last year and thought she was making progress when he asked her to give him a goodnight hug.

He wrapped his arms around her but had the knife hidden in his hand and started stabbing her in the back of the neck. She said ‘please stop, you’re hurting mum’ but he carried on.

Jenny Tallentire, defending, said the boy has responded well to treatment after being moved to a specialist unit and is now glad that his attempt to kill his mother failed.

She said the mother had spent years trying to get better diagnosis and treatment for her son but after leaving school, he had spent most of the preceding two years playing computer games in his bedroom.

After the case, Acting Detective Sergeant John Crewe, who led the investigation, said: “I would like to pay tribute to a member of the public, the first police officers on scene and also the paramedics in attendance who between them no doubt saved the victim’s life in the immediate aftermath of this attack.

“This was a horrible assault which has left the victim with severe life-changing injuries. Our thoughts are with them today as they try to rebuild.”

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