A mental patient who pushed a rush hour commuter to his death beneath a tube train because he was angry at losing £150 at the bookies was jailed for life today. Mehmet Bala, a 20 year old voluntary patient at a mental hospital, was furious at losing the cash on a bet on the World Cup, and took his anger out on 52-year old John Curran. The 52-year-old construction worker was shoved to his death from the packed north-bound platform of the Victoria line at Highbury and Islington underground station in north London.
Irishman Mr Curran was standing at the edge of the platform as the train pulled into the station at around 35mph while Bala was standing just behind him. As the train approached Bala barged Mr Curran in front of it and onto the tracks. Mr Curran was hit by the train around 6pm on July 7 last year and died as a result of his injuries. Bala was chased out of the station by fellow passengers, but escaped into the crowd. He was arrested the next day at Homerton Mental Health Hospital in east London as police showed nurses and staff CCTV footage of the murder.
Staff identified the killer as Mehmet Bala who was a voluntary patient, but allowed out unescorted. When woken up Bala asked the officers "Is the man dead?" and was immediately arrested. Officers asked: "What man?" to which Bala responded: "The man I pushed off the platform." At the Old Bailey Cypriot Turk Bala was sent to prison as psychiatrists could not agree on whether he suffered from paranoid schizophrenia. Judge Ann Goddard QC said she had no powers to impose a hospital order under the mental health act as Broadmoor's psychiatrist believed he was not suffering from a mental illness and any treatment would be useless.
According to the BBC he could be out again in less than five years. Nice to know.
She said the hospital had offered to see him again in the next six months but he must serve a minimum of four-and-a-half years before being considered for parole.
This sort of thing seems to be a habit with London's loony community. In 2002 one of those violent-multiple-drug-user-spider-web-on-face types who are best avoided, Stephen Soans-Wade, pushed Christophe Duclos under a train. With its traditional concern for the victim, the Guardian headed its story "Tube killer wanted to go into care".
The good news is that there were two enquiries into the care of Mr Soans-Wade.
On 27 August, weeks before the murder, he warned a GP about his condition. "I feel like I'm going to do something," he said. "I'm going to push somebody under a bus or a train unless I get help. I'm not safe."
On 24 August Soans-Wade told a nurse: "I may throw your husband under traffic or a train - how would you feel then?" Police were called.
He repeated the threat to push someone under a train. He was readmitted to St Clement's for 10 days but doctors again could find no psychotic problems which would warrant keeping him in.
Naturally the procedures have been put in place to prevent such warning signs being missed again.
The panel criticised the lack of joined-up working between the different health agencies looking after Soans-Wade. This, they said, prevented mental health workers from getting the full picture about the potential risks he posed.
"Stephen's threats and actions gave sufficient indication that his violent behaviour might escalate, but this was not recognised," their report said.
The panel recommended the creation of a specialist personality disorder team and a review of the strategy for dealing with those with a "dual diagnosis" - a drug problem combined with mental illness. Carolyn Regan, managing director of NHS London, said: "In the three years since this incident, a greater understanding of the needs of people like Stephen Soans-Wade has been developed."
(en passant, the NHS report has a strain of black humour.
"Mr Soans-Wade had a complex range of needs including personality disorder, mental illness, drug and alcohol dependence."
I would have thought his needs included a good shoeing and being locked up for the public protection, but what do I know ?)
Anyway, at least the structures have now been put in place to ensure action is taken if a mental patient starts threatening to push people under trains. Haven't they ?
The doctor added Bala carried out the killing because he was annoyed that he had lost money gambling on the World Cup. He told nurses he was going to push someone under a Tube, and dreamt of tying up and stabbing a woman.
PS - amazingly, here we see a psychiatrist actually facing action for letting a loony out to kill.
Dr Chattree denies gross misconduct arising out of his decision to discharge Harrington and allegations that he failed to properly monitor and manage him in the community.
In October 2001, Dr Chattree had authorised Harrington's release from a mental health section order back to his Blackburn home. Before his release Harrington had physically attacked a nurse, apparently taken delight in the suffering of fellow patients, and told medics that he would refuse to take anti-psychotic medicine if allowed home, the hearing in Manchester has been told.
But Dr Dziobon, questioned by Dr Chattree's counsel Jane Mischon, said that a multi-discipilinary mental health team was behind the decision to formally discharge Harrington. "If anyone had expressed concern then Dr Chattree would have listened to them," he told the hearing.
Say what you like (and I have) about trick-cyclists, at least their professional body is capable of taking some action. When was the last time a probation officer took the rap for letting a killer out on Early Release ?