A former public schoolboy from Croyde who killed three elderly men in Exeter told a psychiatrist that he had been ‘a whirlwind of destruction’.

The trial of Alexander Lewis-Ranwell at Exeter Crown Court heard on Tuesday, November 26 that he was suffering from a delusion that all the victims were part of a paedophile ring which was imprisoning and abusing children in cellars hidden in their homes.

The 28-year-old paranoid schizophrenic battered 80-year-old Anthony Payne to death with a hammer in his home in Bonhay Road, Exeter, then killed 84-year-old twins Dick and Roger Carter with a spade at their home in Cowick Lane.

Lewis-Ranwell, of Croyde and formerly of Broadwoodkelly near Okehampton, denies three counts of murder by reason of insanity.

Opening the trial last week, Judge Mrs Justice May has told the jury that the facts of what he did are not in question and the only issue is whether he is not guilty through insanity or guilty of manslaughter by reason of diminished responsibility.

He carried out the three killings just hours after being released by police at Barnstaple, where he was being held over a serious assault on a local farmer with a heavy lumber saw.

The attacks were carried out in the space of three hours in the afternoon of February 10, the same day as police released him without him undergoing a psychiatric assessment.

A doctor who examined him the night before had recommended he be seen by a psychiatric nurse before being released but this did not happen and he was freed at 9.30am.


Dr John Sandford told the jury that Lewis-Ranwell was suffering from a delusion that he was on a quest to rescue a woman named Charlotte who had been missing for 25 years.

He believed she was being held by a gang of paedophiles which was also imprisoning and torturing other children in cellars and underground passages.

Dr Sandford said Lewis-Ranwell was taken aback when he told him there had been no hidden cellars at the houses where he carried out the killings.

By the time the doctor interviewed him Lewis-Ranwell was in Broadmoor, on medication, and recovering from the extreme psychotic episode.

He said: "I was not telling him anything he did not know, but it confirmed his worst fears that none of this was true. He said he was a whirlwind of destruction and he acknowledged he was not right to do what he did.

"My conclusion that at the time he was suffering delusional beliefs, disorganised thinking and false perceptions. It affected his ability to interpret events, appraise what was going on around him, apply logic to his decisions, and exercise self control.

"He believed he was on a quest, which he believed was a morally good thing to do. He believed he was helping women and children who had been taken by paedophiles and was liberating them from crime."

West Buckland

He was brought up in Guildford but at age of 13 his family moved to Devon. He went to West Buckland School in North Devon.

He did well at school, passing 11 GCSEs, including seven A grades, but dropped out of sixth form as the first signs of his mental illness began to emerge and he thought that his school work was pointless.

He did a number of odd jobs locally, before he went travelling to Australia and New Zealand.

He returned to Britain and worked for a short time as a scaffolder in London before becoming a 'ski bum', working in French resorts.

Lewis-Ranwell returned to Britain where his illness became more marked, leading to him being sectioned under the Mental Health Act in 2016 and 2017.

He stopped working and was homeless in North Devon before finding a temporary home at a campsite in Croyde.

Earlier, the jury heard how Lewis-Ranwell's mother advised police not to release him and an inspector warned he posed a potential risk.

Arrested twice before killings

He was arrested twice in the three days before he carried out the killings. The first time was on October 8 when he had burgled one farm near Combe Martin, behaved oddly at another, and been thrown out of the Castle Inn by police after refusing to leave.

He was arrested again on February 9 after attacking Goodleigh farmer John Ellis with a saw and a four-foot long stick.

The trial continues.