worker stabbed to death by client
by staff reporter
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.
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.
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.
a danger to myself and others if I do not have someone keeping an
eye on me throughout the day and night.
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.
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
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
"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
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."
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
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.
has expressed remorse for his actions and their tragic consequences.”
Nov 9, 2006:
Are homicides by people with mental health problems preventable?
Tony Maden believes recommendations he submitted to the government
could result in a cut in homicide rate by psychiatric patients of
10 per cent in five years. Is he realistic?
do you think? Email your comments on the above
article to the editor using the form below. Selected comments will
© 2001-7 Psychminded Limited. All
about this article