Were chances missed to treat ‘disturbed’ killer of seven-year-old York girl?

Katie Rough..8th May 2017 ..Picture by Simon Hulme
Katie Rough..8th May 2017 ..Picture by Simon Hulme

A mental health charity has today called for an independent inquiry into whether there were “missed opportunities” to treat a teenager before she killed seven-year-old York girl Katie Rough.

It emerged in court that the girl, who cannot be named for legal reasons, had been taken out of school due to the severity of her mental health problems and was under the care of her local mental health team amid concerns she may be suffering psychosis.

Katie Rough..8th May 2017 ..Picture by Simon Hulme

Katie Rough..8th May 2017 ..Picture by Simon Hulme

Leeds Crown Court heard how she had talked of her belief that people around her were not human and could be robots controlled by a hostile, higher power. Her barrister said she first reported self-harming at Christmas 2015.

Over the next months she was taken into the care of the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) and, in December 2016, she was prescribed fluoxetine for anxiety and depression as questions were raised over whether she was suffering from psychosis.

Graham Reeds QC, prosecuting, told the court: “This was not formally diagnosed but was flagged up for further investigation.”

Leeds Crown Court heard today how the teenager smothered Katie and slashed at her body with a Stanley knife during the attack at a York playing field in January.

She was clearly crying out for help and support.

Nicholas Johnson QC

The defendant appeared by video link where she denied murder but pleaded guilty to manslaughter by diminished responsibility. This plea was accepted by the prosecution and sentencing will take place on July 20.

Marjorie Wallace, chief executive of the mental health charity SANE, said: “We trust that the independent inquiry, which must follow this shocking and tragic case, will throw light on whether the young girl who pleaded guilty to manslaughter had been assessed for any risk her disturbed thinking presented, and whether there had been missed opportunities to treat her in a specialist unit.

“There have been campaigns in this region involving young people with mental health needs being shunted hundreds of miles to find treatment that have revealed a serious lack of local services.

“This has been reflected in many other parts of the country. [Prime Minister] Theresa May has already acknowledged the severity of the problem, and we hope the government will make new provision urgently available.”

Forensic investigators at the scene in York in January.

Forensic investigators at the scene in York in January.

In April 2013 NHS England became responsible for commissioning independent investigations into killings carried out by patients being treated for mental illness.

An NHS spokesman declined to commen, claiming the case was “subject to ongoing legal proceedings”.

During yesterday’s hearing, the court was told the girl had talked of being convinced that people “weren’t human and were robots”.

Mr Reeds said she became distressed when one doctor asked her “whether she killed Katie to test whether she was a robot”.

He said: “Over a course of a year, she developed an interest in the macabre.

“She lost most of her friendship group at school, started to harm herself with a blade. She was frequently very upset and reported suicidal thoughts.”

He said four reports had been compiled about the teenager since the killing and all agreed she was suffering diminished responsibility at the time, even though she clearly planned the attack.

The prosecutor said the experts disagreed on her exact diagnosis, while Nicholas Johnson QC, representing the teenager, told the court his client had been having “delusional and bizarre thoughts” for months.

He said the teenager had thoughts that people around her “may not be human and may be controlled by a higher and hostile force”.

The barrister said his client had posted a picture on social media two days before the killing with a concerning message.

He said: “She was clearly crying out for help and support.”

A friend interviewed by police following Katie’s death told them she was “nice but weird” and said she liked to talk about death.

She said she had a book in which she drew pictures depicting death and had plans to run away and self-harm.

The friend said the teenager told her she dreamed of killing someone, said people were out to get her and she heard voices in her head.

Police recovered a number of items from the scene and from the teenager’s home.

These included drawings of stick-men in various poses depicting killing and death, and a reference to “they are not human”.

The paper was blood-stained and the court heard it had been cut with the same knife used to slash Katie.

Her bedroom contained books, notes and comics of a violent nature, and a Simba soft toy that had its ears cut off and stuffed into its stomach through a vertical slash.