Devon and Cornwall Police has defended its release of Alexander Lewis-Ranwell from custody hours before he killed three people.

Alexander Lewis-Ranwell.Alexander Lewis-Ranwell.

Lewis-Ranwell was found not guilty of murder on grounds of insanity at Exeter Crown Court on Monday (December 2) following a two-week trial.

He was issued with a hospital restriction order by Judge Justice May and will be transferred to Broadmoor.

The court heard medical evidence from independent experts who assessed Lewis-Ranwell over many months whilst on remand, who concluded that he was suffering from a severe mental illness at the time of the events in February.

Before he was arrested for the killings of Anthony Payne and Dick and Roger Carter, he had been arrested and released twice by police in North Devon.

The scene outside 109 Cowick Lane,  Exeter, where the bodies of twins Dick and Roger Carter, aged 84, were discovered. Picture: Ben Birchall/PA WireThe scene outside 109 Cowick Lane, Exeter, where the bodies of twins Dick and Roger Carter, aged 84, were discovered. Picture: Ben Birchall/PA Wire

He was arrested in Combe Martin on Friday 8 February and charged with criminal damage and burglary. He was bailed to appear at Barnstaple Magistrates Court on Tuesday 22 February.

He was later arrested in Goodleigh on suspicion of causing grievous bodily harm with intent on February 9 and was released on police bail with conditions the following day when he travelled to Exeter.

A statement from police said Lewis-Ranwell was arrested in Exeter on February 11 and was sectioned by professionals while in custody.

Head of major crime, Detective Superintendent Mike West, said: "During his time in custody, prior to the deaths, the defendant had a number of interactions with five different health care professionals who were involved in providing guidance and professional assessment.

"As a result it was agreed that he was fit to be detained and interviewed and indeed confirmed that he did not need a full mental health act assessment.

"We fully accept our responsibilities to look after those detained in our custody units, however it is unreasonable to suggest that police officers or staff, in these circumstances, should have over-ridden decisions made by those who are trained, qualified and skilled in health care.

"A trial based on insanity is a rare procedure and the court has heard medical evidence from three independent experts who have assessed Lewis-Ranwell over many months whilst on remand and who, could not come together to a single view but, concluded that he was suffering from a severe mental illness at the time of the events in February. This shows how complex and dynamic this case has been."

Detective Superintendent Lawler added: "We acknowledge the decision made by the jury and the sentence given by the judge. It is a reflection of the unique and complex nature of this case.

"These were unprovoked attacks on three innocent victims and I pay tribute to the men who lost their lives. Antony Payne and Dick & Roger Carter were gentlemen in their 80s who were killed, by a stranger, in their own homes. Their families, friends and neighbours have supported our investigation team throughout the period since their deaths were reported.

"Our thoughts remain with the families as they continue to come to terms with the tragic events which took place. They also remain with those who were affected by his acts of violence in the days leading up to his arrest."