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Axe attacker was released back to street

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: March 11, 2014

By Geoff Bennett

A"breakdown in communication" led to an axe attacker being released from hospital without police knowing.

Richard Tanner terrified people in Lime Road, Bedminster, Bristol, when he took a three-foot long axe and repeatedly struck it at his neighbour's front door and window.

Armed police arrested Tanner and he was deemed to be suffering from a "drug-induced psychosis" and taken to Callington Road Hospital in Brislington for treatment.

But ten days later he was discharged without the police being informed – despite the officer in the case claiming to have requested to be told if he was released.

The hospital claims there are no written records either at the hospital or with the police confirming a request for Tanner's release date.

After being discharged, Tanner returned to Lime Road – and residents worried there would be a repeat attack.

He was re-arrested after being back in the street for 18 hours, when police made a routine call and discovered he was there.

The latest revelations about the case surfaced after a concerned Lime Road resident stated their concerns to Dawn Primarolo, Labour MP for Bristol South.

The resident, who has asked to remain anonymous, said: "The attack took place on January 3 and I, like many others, dialled 999. The police arrested him and handed him over to the mental health services at Callington Road.

"You may be horrified to know that ten days later on January 13 that hospital released him, without telling the police, and he was back in his house on Lime Road at night, next door to the house he had attacked, which was then occupied.

"It was 12 hours later on a routine phone call that the police found out from a member of the public that Mr Tanner was back in the house.

"They were shocked and frustrated as they had not be informed by the hospital. Street residents moved out for fear of a repeat attack. Luckily the police were able to re-arrest Mr Tanner at midday on January 14, but it was a worrying 18 hours."

Inquiries made by Mrs Primarolo received a response from Inspector Nigel Colson, at Bishopsworth Police Station.

He said: "The officer in the case states that he specifically requested that the hospital contact him should the male be likely to be released.

"The hospital doesn't appear to have any recording of this in their papers. Clearly there was a breakdown in communication, with the result that the hospital released the male without our knowledge."

Inspector Colson stressed there was no legal obligation for the hospital to inform the police, but common sense suggested they should have and "they usually do".

He added Chief Inspector William Halsey was pursuing the issue with senior managers at the hospital.

Sarah Frizzle, acute services manager for Mental Health Bristol, told the MP's office: "Sometimes we receive a specific request from the police to notify them on discharge but in this case, on checking, there is no written record in our records or the police records confirming that they made such a request."

She added that the hospital has strengthened its arrangement with police by now ensuring all such communication goes through a supplied list of ward managers.

At Bristol Crown Court 38-year-old Tanner pleaded guilty to affray and possessing an offensive weapon in January. The recorder Mr James Townsend handed Tanner a 20 months jail term, suspended for two years, with 180 hours' unpaid work and a year's supervision. Tanner was told to pay £500 compensation, a £100 victim surcharge and was made the subject of a restraining order.

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