HEALTH, police and council chiefs have launched a “detailed investigation” after a mental patient was given a life sentence for stabbing a 13-year-old girl to death.
Hannah Bonser, 26, was convicted of murder after a court heard how she killed Casey Kearney in Elmfield Park, Doncaster, on Valentine’s Day, in a completely random, unprovoked attack.
Bonser’s legal team had attempted to convince the jury the defendant’s mental state at the time meant she should be sentenced for manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility, but this was rejected.
The murder verdict was returned after just two hours, and members of Casey’s family who were watching from the public gallery at Sheffield Crown Court gasped and cried out “yes”, while Bonser herself showed no emotion.
High Court judge Mr Justice Cranston said he had given Bonser some reduction in jail time because of her mental state, but told her she would serve 22 years before being considered for release.
Before passing sentence the judge said: “Why Hannah Bonser did this to Casey – a young girl and a complete and innocent stranger – we still do not know. We do know she had a troubled history.
“She had a mental disorder. But by their verdict, the jury has decided that the disorder did not provide an explanation for her murdering Casey.”
During the trial, the jury heard how Bonser had repeatedly come to the attention of mental health services, and how she had been discharged from a crisis centre just a month before the stabbing.
They were told how she had complained of demons in her flat at Cusworth House, Doncaster, and heard from psychiatrists who said she was either schizophrenic or suffering from a personality disorder.
The court also heard that Bonser had regularly abused cannabis, something which medics said explained some of her problems, and she had threatened to kill people who “crossed her”.
Forensic psychiatrists called as witnesses by both the prosecution and defence painted different pictures of the defendant, one saying she was a paranoid schizophrenic, while the other said he thought that “highly unlikely”.
Bonser’s case is the latest to place Doncaster in the national spotlight, following seven child deaths and an attack in the former mining village of Edlington, which saw two young brothers torture two other boys. All have been the subject of independent reviews.
In a statement released after the verdict, a spokesman for the NHS, Doncaster Council and Rethink, the charity which saw Bonser in the days before the murder, said: “NHS Doncaster has commissioned a detailed independent investigation.
“Such reviews are a statutory Department of Health requirement when investigating deaths involving mental health service patients.
“We expect the investigation to be completed by the end of this summer and a public report will be published afterwards.
“Before the report is published we will share it with Casey’s family first, so it would be inappropriate to make any further comment at this stage.”
Speaking outside court, Det Supt Terry Mann, who oversaw the investigation, said “This was a terrible, unprovoked and random attack on an innocent young girl, robbing her and her loving family of her future years.
“It happened in broad daylight in a popular area, shocking the local community.
“The investigation has been a difficult one for all involved so I would like to thank everyone who came forward, helping us with our enquiries.”
Murder in park: Pages 4&5.