19th Aug, 2019

Man who stabbed mother to death over cup of tea row in Coventry jailed

A COVENTRY man who stabbed his pensioner mother to death in what he said was a row over a cup of tea has been given an extended 16-year prison sentence.

But under what is known as a ‘hybrid order’ paranoid schizophrenic Thomas Westwood will be treated in a psychiatric hospital under the Mental Health Act before going to jail.

He had pleaded not guilty at Warwick Crown Court to the murder of his 68-year-old mother Susan, but guilty to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility.

And following a number of adjournments because of his mental condition, Westwood (47) of Rosemary Crescent, Tile Hill, Coventry, but who mainly stayed at his mother’s home in Cavendish Road, Tile Hill, has finally been sentenced.

He was given a ‘hybrid order’ under which he was made subject to a hospital order detaining him indefinitely in a secure psychiatric unit under the Mental Health Act.

But Judge Andrew Lockhart QC, who said the killing was prompted by anger rather than his medical condition, also imposed a 16-year jail sentence with extended licence of five years.

The effect of the sentence is that once he is considered fit to be released from the psychiatric unit, he will be moved to a prison for whatever time is left of the custodial sentence.

He will have to serve at least two-thirds of the 16-year term, including the time he spends in hospital, before the Parole Board can consider his release – and will then be on licence for the remainder of that time and for a further five years.

Prosecutor Peter Grieves-Smith said: “His mother Susan Westwood died from multiple stab wounds at her home in Coventry, a single-bedroom house she had shared with the defendant, who slept on the sofa.

“They did not have an easy relationship, although what is plain is that she was devoted to him and doing her very best to help him. The difficulty was the defendant’s mental health.”

He said that Westwood, who was 6ft 3 and 18 stone, had paranoid schizophrenia and an autistic spectrum disorder which led to a lack of social functioning.

On December 1, 2017, one of Mrs Westwood’s neighbours saw Westwood outside in an agitated state and talking to himself, and he became abusive when his mother suggested going back inside.

He swore at her when she remarked: “I told you not to have that drink,” and the neighbour thought he was going to hit her, but they did then go back into the house.

Then at 9.35 that evening Westwood made a 999 call in which he suggested his mother had come at him with a knife, and that he had ‘hit her a few times to stop her’ as she tried to slit his throat.

The police went to Cavendish Road, where they found Mrs Westwood on the sofa, obviously dead, and he repeated his account that she had had a knife and he had acted in self-defence.

“At the police station he said he had made his mother a cup of tea, and she had pulled a blade on him, complaining that the tea wasn’t milky enough,” said Mr Grieves-Smith.

Mrs Westwood had a total of 18 knife injuries, including nine stab wounds, two of which were deep and had caused fatal injuries to her heart and lung.

When he was interviewed, Westwood gave a similar account, but while on remand on the medical wing at HMP Hewell, he said he wanted to see his solicitor because he had said he had murdered his mother in self-defence, which was not true.

He later went on to say he had killed his mother on purpose, and that he regretted it.

Psychiatrist Dr Leela Sivaprasad said that after around eight months at Reaside psychiatric unit in Birmingham, Westwood ‘seems to be a little better.’

Asked by Judge Lockhart what the ‘best case scenario’ was for Westwood to be fit to be discharged, she replied: “At a guestimate, I would think something like five years.”

Michael Duck QC, defending, said Westwood had been treated for mental health illness since the 1980s, and the killing had taken place just weeks after his discharge from treatment.

Urging the judge to pass a hospital order, he observed: “Dr [Nicholas] Kennedy considers the paranoid schizophrenia was the most significant feature and cause of the manner in which he behaved.”

But sentencing Westwood, Judge Lockhart said: “This case is a tragedy for all involved.”

He spoke of Mrs Westwood’s daughter Amanda Blenkinsop having to tell his sons their grandmother was dead and that their father had killed her, and ‘their lives have been torn apart.’

The judge told Westwood: “I find she angered you because she was remonstrating with you because you had been drinking, which exacerbated your condition.

“I find she did not attack you with a knife, but that during the course of an argument you picked up a knife and stabbed her several times.

“She was 68 and in poor health. She was seated and you were standing up delivering the fatal blows. Those many severe blows were struck in anger.

“You claimed your mother came at you with a knife. I reject that entirely. You sought to blacken her and paint her as a bully. I find that, only to a degree, was this delusional.

“For a reason only you can explain, you chose to arm yourself and attack her and stab her many times. In my judgement anger was the driving reason why you killed her.

“You must in reality have intended to kill her at the time. By reason of your condition your ability to exercise self-control was substantially impaired.

“In my judgement your medical condition did not cause this offence, you were not told by voices to kill your mother, this offence was caused by anger.

“But once this attack, prompted by anger, began, you were unable to exercise the self-control to stop. You acted in a very violent manner. This was a violent and sustained attack.”

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