An 83-year-old farmer from Goodleigh who was the first victim of Alexander Lewis-Ranwell yesterday blamed the authorities for letting him walk free and kill three vulnerable old men.

Alexander Lewis-Ranwell.Alexander Lewis-Ranwell.

John Ellis is furious that the 28-year-old ex public schoolboy was twice freed by police - allowing him to go on his murderous campaign bludgeoning three men to death in the space of a few hours on one day in February.

Smallholder John said it was only by sheer good fortune that he was not the first fatal victim of the killing spree.

He said: "He wanted to kill me. He would have killed me but the saw he armed himself with broke as did a four foot long stick he stabbed me in the heart with.

"It was attempted murder. If the authorities had put him away after the attack on me, then there would not have been three dead men in Exeter."

Paranoid schizophrenic Lewis-Ranwell had been released by police for a second time in three days before he went to the Ellis's smallholding on the morning of February 9 - a day before he killed the trio.

A retired WPC neighbour called him to say she had spotted 'an odd looking fellow carrying a stick and a large saw walk across our field leaving the gate open for the sheep to escape'.

Maureen Ellis also called on her husband to help after the stranger tried to let their alpacas escape from the coral.

He struck John with the stick and swung the four foot long rusty logging saw at knee height - as Mrs Ellis ran to the house to call the police.

John said: "The fellow moved very quickly towards me and swung the saw in a large arc at his shoulder height. The saw was aiming to decapitate me. I was aware of the swinging blade and, purely by reaction, my left arm shot up to protect my head. The saw contacted my wrist and I sustained an injury."

As John ran back 50 yards to his house, Lewis-Ranwell was behind him and he lifted his stick and 'stabbed me in the heart area with three rapid jabs over the top of the gate'.

But as he tried to spear it down on John, it snapped near his hand leaving him with just one foot of weapon left. But he hurled the stick at his head causing an injury to his scalp.

He tried to finish off John with the old saw but the handle broke off - and Lewis-Ranwell walked off down the drive.

He was treated in hospital and a detective said Lewis-Ranwell had been arrested and was 'securely in a cell'.

But the next morning the police rang him and the detective told him he had to be released due to 'insufficient evidence'.

John feared he would return to 'finish the job and erase all witnesses'.

He said within 30 minutes two 'extremely worried detectives' came to see him and brought a bag of protection devices - various squalers, a dedicated 999 mobile phone and two spray canisters.

He wrote three e-mails to the Chief Constable of Devon and Cornwall Police Shaun Sawyer 'blaming the Crown Prosecution Service for their complete stupidity in letting this fellow go'.

In the third e-mail he wrote: "They (the CPS) did not even speak to me about the attempted murder of my person, the injury I sustained, the evidence that we captured yet they took it on themselves to order the release of a potential murderer.

"You now have three murders which should never have happened and would not have happened if these highly paid idiots had done their job."

John did receive a letter from senior crown prosecutor AJ Pritchard on the weekend before the trial started in Exeter Crown Court - and in which the criminal assault charges following his attack were dropped.

He wrote that Lewis-Ranwell had been charged with the three murders and 'admits to having carried out all of the attacks'.

He wrote: "The length of time Lewis-Ranwell is detained will not be affected by the verdict in respect of the attack on you. I have therefore decided that it is not in the public interest to continue to prosecute Lewis-Ranwell for causing you grievous bodily harm.

"I appreciate that the attack upon you not only caused you immediate harm but the time taken to resolve the criminal proceedings added to your anxiety.

"I appreciate this may not be the outcome you wanted..."