Face of man who murdered Plymouth mum

Callum Thomas - found guilty by majority verdict of murdering his mother, Debra Cantrell
-Credit: (Image: Devon and Cornwall Police)


This is the face of the man who stabbed his mother to death before leaving her body on her bed for several days before a call from the USA alerted police to her murder.

Callum Thomas claimed he was suffering from diminished responsibility at the time, pleading guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter shortly before his trial at Plymouth Crown Court. However, prosecutors went on to tell the jury that Thomas, aged 33, had repeatedly made threats to hurt or even kill his mother, Debra Cantrell, her over a period of years, dating back to 2009.

The jury heard that despite the series of assaults and threats, Ms Cantrell did not want him to be charged, instead calling for mental health help.

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By 2018 Thomas had become "more violent" towards his mother, but she continued to make it clear to police when they arrived that she did not want him to get into trouble.

On one occasion at her home in Colwill Road, Mainstone, she revealed to police that he had held a knife to her throat while telling her that he wanted her dead. In late 2018, police took the stop of issuing a Domestic Violence Protection Order (DVPO), banning him from her home for 28 days.

The jury heard how in December 2019 he made threats to kill her by beating her to death "or by slitting her throat". He also threatened to kill her cat by "slitting it down the middle". In January 2020, he was readmitted to rehab in Luton, so Ms Cantrell told police she did not want him charged with anything regarding the previous month's threats.

Following his rehab, he appeared to be better and it was not until mid 2022 police were again called by Ms Cantrell. Again the police issued a DVPO, banning him for 28 days. Police prepared another order at the end of March 2023 after Ms Cantrell told police Thomas had been coming to her home again and making threats to kill her and asking her for money.

Callum Thomas - found guilty by majority verdict of murdering his mother, Debra Cantrell
Callum Thomas - found guilty by majority verdict of murdering his mother, Debra Cantrell -Credit:Devon and Cornwall Police

When she refused to give him money he bashed a door into her head and she told police he "always" carried a knife with him in a sheath. He told police he thought their relationship was fine but he needed help with accommodation and his mental health.

The jury heard that on April 26, 2023 Thomas was seen by a mental health nurse and he revealed he was living in a tent in the woods near Roborough with his dog. He said he was not hearing voices, but was struggling with his memory, unable to be sure which memories were real and which were not. He claimed his mother was an alcoholic and had been abusive to him when he was growing up.

The jury were told he had made suggestions to staff at the hospital that he wanted to "get his own back" on her and anyone else who had wronged him in the past and that he would "kill them".

He said he would kill his mother and would then walk into a police station "holding the decapitated heads" of his victims. He told the nurse he would kill his mother by "gutting her". He said he knew he would go to prison "but it would be worth it".

On May 6, 2023 Thomas walked into Crownhill police station and told the reception he did not feel safe, that people were coming to get him. He claimed two men had sprayed him with LSD.

Forensic tent and police at murder scene in Colwill Road, Estover -Credit:Carl Eve/PlymouthLive
Forensic tent and police at murder scene in Colwill Road, Estover -Credit:Carl Eve/PlymouthLive

Paramedics took him and his dog Bella to Derriford Hospital and was assessed first by a mental health nurse, who considered Thomas was not a "risk" to others, and later by two consultant psychiatrists who did not deem him to be psychotic, but instead in need of accommodation.

He was allowed to stay overnight with his dog and later left to go to his mother's home, but was later called to be told he could not be housed. Police later found he had bought a one-way rail ticket to Perth in Scotland using Ms Cantrell's bank card.

On May 12, he was seen by police in Notte Street which was filmed on their Bodyworn Video cameras. The jury were told by prosecutor Anna Vigars KC that over the next few days there were gaps where it was not known where Thomas was, but "by that stage, we say, his mother was already dead. We say she died that day he bought the train ticket".

Police were contacted by an online gamer in the USA who was concerned about Thomas who he had gamed with for some time, and also for comments he had made before losing contact with him after May 8. In a message to the American, Thomas wrote that he had "done something bad" and he "didn't think he was going to be around for along time" and that he would "like to hang out with him one more time".

Crime Scene Investigator seen inside the property in Colwill Road -Credit:Carl Eve/PlymouthLive
Crime Scene Investigator seen inside the property in Colwill Road -Credit:Carl Eve/PlymouthLive

After being contacted on May 31 officers attended Ms Cantrell's home in Colwill Road and after forcing entry found her body partially under a duvet and with a pillow over her face. She had been stabbed in the chest with a large kitchen knife.

The jury were told that forensic entomological examination suggested that the date of death was between one and five days before May 10 or 12.

Thomas was found guilty of murder by a jury on a 11 to 1 majority verdict. He was told by Judge Peter Johnson he would face a life sentence, but the minimum tariff - the time he would remain in prison before being considered for parole - would have to be determined before he was sentenced on August 6.

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