Mental Health Alert

Mental health worker stabbed to death by client

A mental health worker who was expected to become a “brilliant psychologist” was stabbed to death by a client during a visit to his flat.

Psychology graduate Ashley Ewing, 22, was knifed 39 times by Ronald Dixon, who was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and warned he could be dangerous, a court heard.

Ms Ewing was delivering a letter on behalf of a colleague to Dixon’s flat, and was six months into her first full-time job after graduating from Northumbria University.

She was a support worker for Mental Health Matters, a charity providing community services to clients with mental health and that managed the property in Heaton, Newcastle, where Dixon was living.

Police said Dixon had been receiving voluntary psychiatric treatment since being convicted of causing grievous bodily harm after attacking his parents with a hammer in 1994.

He received two years’ probation for the offence and voluntarily attended Cherry Knowle Hospital in Sunderland for treatment.

Dixon, who at times said he was Henry VIII’s son, was also arrested last year outside Buckingham Palace for threatening to kill the Queen, Newcastle Crown Court heard on Monday. After his arrest, he was sectioned then discharged.

The court was told that before the killing, Dixon had been refusing to take antipsychotic medication, was drinking alcohol and had become distressed by mounting debts. He was showing signs of a reoccurrence into a psychotic state.

The court also heard that months before the killing on May 22, and in front of a psychiatric nurse, Dixon filled in an application form for disability living allowance warning that he was dangerous.

He wrote: “I need someone to keep an eye on me throughout the day and night. I need someone to calm me down when I get anxious and hear voices, when I am depressed and confused. I do not realise if my condition is getting worse.

“I’m a danger to myself and others if I do not have someone keeping an eye on me throughout the day and night.

“If I do not take my medication I will become psychotic. I hear voices in my head. These voices do things like tell me to attack my enemies.”

The court was told that Ms Ewing did not know Dixon had attacked his parents.

The letter Miss Ewing took to Dixon confirmed he had agreed to pay compensation for a telephone he had damaged.

Paul Sloan, QC, for the prosecution, told the court that “it would seem the content of the letter played some part in triggering the frantic knife attack”.

Mr Sloan said that Dixon had used four knives. As one broke, he would use a replacement.

When he had finished the attack, Dixon walked to a police station and said a woman was lying dead in his home.

Dixon was charged with murder but the prosecution accepted his plea of guilty to manslaughter on the ground of diminished responsibility.

Judge David Hodson ordered that Dixon should be detained indefinitely in Rampton Hospital.

Sentencing, Judge Hodson said: “The circumstances of this case demand an independent and thorough investigation which, now that the case is concluded, can be undertaken.

“There are a number of questions which require answers and which I hope can be provided in due course and from which vital lessons can be learned.”

Julie Seed, a senior lecturer in the psychology department at Northumbria University, told the Newcastle Chronicle newspaper that Ms Ewing would have become a“ brilliant psychologist”

“She was very understanding and completely non-judgemental, which are very key traits if you are a psychologist,” said Ms Seed.

“When you work in this job you meet a lot of people who react in very different ways. You can’t afford to judge them on face value, and Ashleigh never did that.”

She added: “Her final honours project, which I supervised, was a very clear testament to how much she wanted to make a difference and help those in need.

“She spent many hours assessing young women from Newcastle’s Asian community in order to find out whether eating disorders were occurring in this community but being overlooked.

“It was an excellent piece of work, showing how much she cared about the people around her.”

Ms Ewing’s parents, Aileen and Jeff Ewing, have demanded to know why she was asked to pay an unaccompanied visit to a client “who was known to have a violent past” and why Dixon’s care had not been monitored more closely.

A Health and Safety Executive investigation is to be published. An inquiry has been ordered by the North East Strategic Health Authority.

Both Mental Health Matters, and Northumberland, Tyne and Wear Mental Health Trust, responsible for Ronald Dixon’s care, say they will continue to co-operate with all investigations, they told the Sunderland Echo.

A spokeswoman for Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Trust said: “Since the incident we have carried out an internal review of our involvement in Ronald Dixon’s care.

“We are satisfied that the individuals involved in his case acted professionally and provided appropriate support to him.”

Ian Grant of Mental Health Matters said: “What happened to Ashleigh is a tragedy for which the organisation has no precedent and we remain deeply saddened by Ashleigh’s death.”

Meanwhile, Dixon has instructed solicitors to seek a public inquiry into why he was left alone in his flat, The Shields Gazette newspaper has reported.

A spokesman for the Michael Purdon solicitors was quoted as saying: “Mr Dixon has instructed us as his legal representatives to seek a full and public inquiry into the circumstances, including his care, leading to the death of Ashleigh Ewing.

“He has expressed remorse for his actions and their tragic consequences.”

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