Mentally-ill man on bail when he killed pensioner

A man who strangled an 82-year-old woman, leaving her naked body covered in bite marks and cigarette burns, had been released from psychiatric hospital six months before and was on police bail at the time, an inquiry report has revealed.

Richard Loudwell, who had a range of mental health problems, had twice during 2002 been admitted to hospital, and twice assessed in the community, before he helped Joan Smythe home with her shopping and attacked her in December that year, it said.

Three days earlier, he had been arrested over the alleged rape and indecent assault of a man in Canterbury, Kent, but was released on bail without charge.

An independent inquiry into Loudwell’s care and treatment, commissioned by Medway Council and Medway Teaching Primary Care Trust, found that there were a “number of organisational and individual failures” in the run-up to the pensioner’s death.

But the panel said they were “unable to conclude that the homicide that Richard Loudwell committed was either predictable or preventable”.

On the day of the killing Loudwell’s sister, concerned about his “increasingly bizarre and troubled behaviour”, telephoned his former probation officer to ask for help but there was no reply, the report said.

Hours later, Loudwell, 59, from Gillingham, Kent, drove to nearby Rainham and met Mrs Smythe who lived in the same building as his aunt. He later called 999 from the pensioner’s home saying she was ill.

He was given instructions on how to revive her over the phone but when paramedics arrived Mrs Smythe was found lying on a bed with a number of injuries and she was pronounced dead in hospital.

Loudwell denied murder but admitted manslaughter on the ground of diminished responsibility at Maidstone Crown Court in April 2004.

He was taken to Broadmoor hospital while awaiting sentence but was attacked three days later by real-life Hannibal Lecter, Peter Bryan, who smashed his head on the floor. He died two months later.

Bryan, 35, who had eaten the brain of an earlier victim, later said he regretted being discovered before he had tasted Loudwell’s flesh. He pleaded guilty to his manslaughter and that of Brian Cherry at the Old Bailey and was jailed last year.

The report found that the mental health services failed to “understand the relationship between Loudwell’s mental condition and the reasons for his offending.”

But in 1999 Loudwell pleaded guilty to indecent assault and in 2002 had numerous encounters with the police.

From 1994, when Loudwell was first referred to mental health services, he went to hospital on a number of occasions and was admitted on five occasions from 1997.

In March 2002 he went to Medway Hospital but discharged because of his sexually inappropriate behaviour.

When he was admitted and discharged again in May after only three days no proper risk assessment was undertaken.