'Black Dog Strangler' Escape Inquiry Promised

'Black Dog Strangler' Escape Inquiry Promised

An inquiry will be held into how a convicted killer dubbed the "Black Dog Strangler" escaped from a secure hospital.

Phillip Westwater fled St Nicholas Hospital in Gosforth, Newcastle, after asking to use the toilet during an escorted visit to a restaurant on the site.

The 44-year-old, who strangled a fellow patient he was convinced had turned into a black dog, changed his clothes and left them in a pile before disappearing for 12 hours.

Westwater was reportedly found in a bar in the city centre's gay area by a member of the public who recognised him from a circulated photo.

A spokesman for Northumberland Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust, which runs a medium secure unit at the hospital, said the trust takes public and patient safety "extremely seriously".

He said: "Planned or escorted leave is an important part of any patient's treatment plan, especially when working towards their recovery.

"Arrangements for escorted leave are rigorously risk assessed, made on an individual basis and regularly reviewed.

"The decision to grant leave involves the views of the patient's multi-disciplinary clinical team and, when appropriate, input from the patient, their carers and family members, as well as external agencies such as the police and Ministry of Justice.

"We have strict protocols and procedures in place around managing episodes of escorted leave but we can always learn from individual incidents such as this.

"We will be carrying out a thorough internal review of this incident as soon as our colleagues at Northumbria Police have concluded their investigation."

Westwater, who has been taken back to the hospital, is being detained indefinitely under the Mental Health Act.

In 1989 he attacked a man with a piece of glass in a pub fight, leaving him paralysed for life.

The following year he strangled fellow patient Derek Williams at Ashworth Hospital in Liverpool with his dressing gown cord.

Westwater admitted manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility.