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No blame attached to medical staff over ‘devil’ knife killing, rules sheriff

Broughty Ferry stabbing inquiry
Mark Johnston was killed by David Reid in Broughty Ferry, believing he was the devil

A sheriff has cleared Aberdeen psychiatric doctors for any blame in the case of a man who killed his best friend after saying he was the devil.

David Reid, 48, was sent to the State Hospital in Carstairs, Lanarkshire, two years ago for stabbing Mark Johnston 120 times.

A Fatal Accident Inquiry (FAI) was held at Dundee Sheriff Court earlier this year to establish if more could have been done to prevent the attack

In October, 2017 Reid had sought medical attention for his schizophrenia and hallucinations in Dundee.

He was sent to Royal Cornhill Hospital in Aberdeen because there were no Tayside beds available.

He discharged himself against medical advice and staff could not stop him as he did not meet the criteria to be legally detained and was assessed as having sufficient insight to manage his illness.

Two days later on October 20, 2017, he killed his best friend Mr Johnston, 53, from Montrose, in a frenzied knife attack in a flat in Nursery Road.

No blame on medical staff

In a judgment issued on Monday, Sheriff Jillian Martin Brown ruled available evidence showed medical staff did not make any errors in how they treated Reid.

She wrote: “It is tempting to assume that because David Reid killed Mark Johnston within three days of discharging himself against medical advice from Royal Cornhill Hospital, something must have gone wrong in terms of the exercise of clinical judgement.

“However, that was not borne out by the factual or opinion evidence in this inquiry.

“It is not clear why David Reid’s mental state deteriorated after his departure from Royal Cornhill Hospital but that was not due to any failings on the part of the medical professionals who worked with him, nor the system within which they worked.”

Nursery Road flats in Broughty Ferry.

She wrote: “I do not consider that even if David Reid had been detained to allow for fuller assessment, that would have resulted in David Reid being detained for long enough such that the death of the deceased might realistically have been avoided.

“The evidence of how David Reid presented after his discharge did not suggest that he ought to have been detained.”

Phone confession to sister

Reid and Mr Johnston had become friends while being treated at Murray Royal Hospital in Perth.

The judgement describes how police arrived at the Broughty Ferry flat after the alarm was raised by Reid’s sister.

He had phoned her and confessed he had stabbed his friend to death.

Police work at the scene of the killing, Nursery Road, Broughty Ferry on October 22, 2017.

Reid told police: “I feel terrible.

“The devil told me I had two hours to stab him.

“I got a knife from the kitchen and sat there.

“He was my only friend. I can’t believe what I’ve done.

“I stabbed him. What will his family think?”

Officers found him covered “head to toe” in blood, with Mr Johnston dead on the floor.

Tried for two hours to battle voices

The judgement states: “Whilst within the charge bar waiting area, David Reid made several comments regarding the incident and these comments were to the effect that he could not believe what he had done and that the deceased had been his only friend.

“He stated that he had thought that the deceased was the devil and that the television had told him to kill the deceased.

“He further stated that he had taken a knife, put it in his pocket and thereafter tried for two hours to stop himself killing the deceased.

“He also stated that the deceased was pleading for his life.”

Reid was found not guilty of killing Mr Johnston in October 2017 on the basis he was insane at the time of the attack.

Judge Lady Rae sent him to Carstairs without limit of time.