Dawlish mum stabbed to death and mutilated by schizophrenic son

Bradley Huggins

A 'cherished' mother was mutilated and killed by her own son, who has admitted he filmed the horrific ordeal and been given an indefinite hospital order.

Bradley Huggins pleaded guilty to manslaughter of 53-year-old Hazel Huggins, from Dawlish, by diminished responsibility. The 25-year-old denied murdering his mother and the Crown Prosecution Service accepted the pleas.

Huggins appeared at Plymouth Crown Court today via a video link from the Wellesley Hospital mental health unit in Somerset following his arrest at an address in Ilbert Street, Stonehouse on the afternoon of Saturday July 29 last year.

Prosecutor Christopher Quinlan KC told the court that Huggins had a long history of mental health conditions, including schizophrenia and Aspergers. He had moved into the Ilbert Street address just three months prior to the incident and his mother would frequently attend the property to help him. The court heard that a neighbour who had got to know Hazel from her visits said that it was "obvious she cared very much for her son".

Mr Quinlan KC explained that Huggins had a "long history of abusing alcohol and drugs" and his parents "never knew" what would trigger a psychotic episode. He had previously assaulted his father "on more than one occasion" and the court was told that his father, Guy Huggins, was concerned that Huggins "manipulated" Hazel on occasions.

In late July Huggins texted his mother and asked her to deep clean his home as he was concerned about threadworms, even though it had been cleaned by her the week before.

Mr Quinlan KC noted that Guy's witness statement to police explained how the couple were always "worried" about going to Huggins' flat. He drove her to the property and they kissed goodbye as she went in carrying cleaning products, with a plan to pick her up at around 4pm. A neighbour told police Huggins appeared at the door "looking angry".

Later, after receiving no reply to calls or texts, Guy drove to the house and called his wife and then his son before knocking at the door. Moments later he received a series of whatsapp messages: "I'm sorry", " Call the police", "I've knives for self defence". Guy asked what had happened to "mum" but the replies left him in shock: "It was made peaceful", "she thought of you", "I'm going to to fight the c**** that f***** us up".

Horrified and fearing the very worst, Guy hammered on the door. It was explained that Huggins had himself called police at 4.11pm talking in a low voice, swearing, and not making himself clear although the court heard police called him back whereupon he told the call handler "I've killed my mother, I've killed my mum. Dad's here. Lucifer's in his room".

Four minutes later Guy called 999 and Mr Quinlan KC told the court "one can only imagine the absolute terror and helplessness he felt".

Armed officers forced their way into the flat where they found Mrs Huggins fatally injured from a total of 11 stab wounds. Despite their best efforts and those of paramedics who also attended, she died at the scene.

The bloodied knife with a 15cm blade was located on a coffee table in the living room and Huggins was standing by the window with his hood up and wearing a surgical mask. He was arrested on suspicion of murder and admitted to officers that he had killed his mother, saying "It's all over now. I might be going to prison. I'm free of them all now".

The court heard a post mortem report from a Home Office pathologist who noted the 53-year-old's injuries - knife wounds to her face, torso and left upper limb. There was also a Y-shaped wound to the front of her neck and a wound to the left side of her chest, around 11cm deep.

Police recovered and examined both Huggins and his mother's phones. The court heard Huggins had used both phones to film part of the assault on her.

During his police interview Huggins claimed he had told his mother he was aiming to move out and of drinking alcohol for a week before taking his own life. He claimed his mother had "dropped a bombshell" about him not receiving money which he felt was due to him. This was compounded by his false belief of being hunted by a gang of paedophile hunters, and that she was somehow assisting them.

Becoming angry, he had picked up the knife and attacked her in the doorway of the kitchen and then the bedroom. The court heard that Huggins had told police his mother had cried out "you're killing me", but he continued to stab her.

Guy Huggins took to the witness box to read out his Victim Impact Statement. Often fighting back tears, he explained how his wife's horrific and untimely death had, through her family, friends and Hope Church in Dawlish, and wider Christian groups, impacted on thousands of lives.

He said he has suffered flashbacks from that awful day and recalled the agony of having to inform the couple's remaining son, Rowan, of the news. He said his role was to "love, cherish and protect" his wife, but now he "feel that in some way I've failed her and them". He praised the police's Family Liaison Officers, Victim Support staff who had supported him and his family and thanked the police and the courts for their work.

Guy said the loss of his wife was a "hold that can never be filled", but remarkably he added "I fully forgive Bradley. I just want him to receive and accept the mental health treatment, for him to be healed and restored." He added that "perhaps, one day, he will help others" who had also been diagnosed with similar mental health difficulties.

However, he stated firmly that he and his family "definitely felt let down by the care service over the last five years" and he had "lost confidence in the mental health services". Before stepping down from the witness box, Guy said: "I will rebuild my life, but it will never be the same again."

Mr Quinlan KC noted that samples taken from the young man revealed there was no alcohol or illegal drugs in his system at the time, but there was evidence of prescribed antipsychotic medication. He also noted how Huggins' family had concerns that not only should he be treated but that he should only be released when it was deemed safe for him to be released.

Mr Quinlan KC added that three consultant psychiatrists who examined Huggins since his arrest all came to the same conclusion - that at the time of the incident "he was suffering from - and still does - severe mental health issues, namely schizophrenia". This manifested in a number of ways including paranoia, auditory hallucination, psychotic episodes as well as anxiety and depression.

In his closing words Mr Quinlan KC reminded the court: "She [Hazel] knew she was dying. He [Bradley] recorded her dying and recorded his mutilation of her".

In mitigation, Huggins' advocate, Jo Martin KC noted the three psychiatrists' reports and asked for one of the authors of the report, Dr Brian Darnley, to give his evidence in the witness box. Dr Darnley said there was no difference in the three psychiatrists reports. He noted that Bradley had used illegal drugs for years, but the evidence was that he was not using at the time.

He explained that Huggins had told him he began smoking cannabis aged around 13 or 14 years old but after being treated in June 2020 for cannabis dependency, moved onto alcohol. However, previous reports showed that Bradley went through an alcohol detoxification in January 2022 and his mother had said he had not used alcohol since that month from when he was an in-patient at Torbay Hospital.

He said that cannabis would have "contributed" to the development of Huggins' mental illness, adding that his illness was "in evolution". He explained that text exchanges between Bradley and Hazel showed he was "actively trying to source" his prescribed medication but was "struggling to get it from his GP".

He confirmed that his condition included delusions and hallucinations, as well as a central delusion that he "felt he was being persecuted by people trying to out him as a paedophile". He said that Huggins was a "risk to [him] self" and was a risk to others as he was "at risk of committing further homicides". He said that his report was that he "continued to have homicidal ideas in hospital."

Ms Martin KC highlighted Huggins' statement, given to her junior last Tuesday, which explained he had "expressed considerable remorse for what had happened and for his actions that day and he will, if and when he becomes truly well, he will have to live with the knowledge of his actions for the rest of his life. He too echoes his father's wish to lead a better life, a constructive life in the memory of his mother".

Sentencing Huggins, Judge Peter Johnson noted the awful loss of Hazel to her family, friends, her church community, noting her husband's "moving, heart rending and courageous" impact statement, adding "she was clearly a lovely lady and a loyal friend". He also noted the "extremely harrowing" Whatsapp messages. He noted Huggins' "persecution complex" and how he believed there was a gang who wanted to expose him as a paedophile and that his mother was in some way "in league" with them.

He also noted the question of dangerousness as to whether you posed a significant risk to the public of similar offences, concluding "you're clearly dangerous".

Taking on board the recommendations by the psychiatric reports and the sentencing guidelines, Judge Johnson concluded that the most suitable option was a Section 37 hospital order under the Mental Health Act, but with a Section 41 restriction order. In effect, it would mean Huggins would remain under the supervision of medical staff at a secure unit - Wellesley Hospital in Somerset - indefinitely.

The decision as to whether he is ever well enough to leave hospital can only be taken by the mental health profession in charge of Huggins' care, who will have to ask the Secretary of State for Justice to agree to his release. Until the Secretary of State has agreed, he will not be able to leave the hospital.

Det Insp Neil Blanchard from the Major Crime Investigation Team, which carried out the inquiry, said: "This is a terribly sad and tragic case, and our thoughts remain very much with family members who have acted with grace and dignity throughout the investigation."

"We have worked closely with the CPS and independent mental health experts who concluded that Huggins was suffering from schizophrenia when he attacked and killed his mother. I would like to thank the investigation team for their diligence and hard work on this case and I hope today's outcome brings a measure of peace for the family."

On behalf of the family Mr Guy Huggins paid tribute to Hazel Huggins, saying: "Following the sentencing of Brad Huggins today, we continue to grapple with the profound loss of our beloved Hazel, my amazing wife and mother to my two sons. She was a cherished member of our extended family and a precious friend - a beacon of kindness, faith, joy, and love in our community and beyond. Hazel's radiant spirit touched the lives of many as she lived out her Christian faith."

"Today we encountered evidence for the first time which we will need time to process as we grieve. The events of July 29, 2023, will forever be etched in our hearts as a day of unimaginable tragedy. The loss of Hazel has reverberated not only through our immediate family but also through our extended network of friends, neighbours, colleagues, and international faith community. The outpouring of support, both near and far, has been a source of huge comfort during this time of profound grief."

"Brad's actions were the result of severe mental illness. We find ourselves sharing a tragic bond with far too many families who have suffered similar bereavements either at the hands of mentally ill relatives, or by strangers known to have serious mental health conditions. Hazel fought for Brad, she loved him, and she could not have done more to help and support him."

"We would like to extend our deepest gratitude to Devon and Cornwall Police, the CPS, our police family liaison officers, Victim Support, and Join the Dots Solutions for their unwavering support and dedication throughout this ordeal."

"I don't know how people get through events and traumas like this without faith. In the midst of our deep sorrow, we draw strength and comfort through our Christian faith and the outpouring of prayers and support from around the world."

"Hazel's death will never be forgotten, and has impacted many people, but we choose to forgive my eldest son Brad and to advocate for him to receive the medical care and support that he desperately needs."

"Hazel was, and always will be, 'a bright shining light, loved by many'. She was not only my wife, she was also my soul mate, and I miss her so, so much."

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