Killer stabbed stepdad to death in his own bed with 'no warning'

Benjamin Moglione
-Credit: (Image: Merseyside Police)

A university student who killed his stepdad by knifing the ex-police officer 17 times in his own bed with "no warning" has been given an indefinite hospital order.

Andrew McDiarmid, a former detective inspector who served Merseyside Police for 30 years, died aged 64 after being brutally stabbed inside the family home on Oldfield Way in Heswall, Wirral. His wife's son Benjamin Moglione had been accused of his murder but pleaded guilty to the lesser count of manslaughter midway through a trial at Liverpool Crown Court, having been suffering from postictal psychosis as a result of an epileptic seizure at the time of the incident.

The now 23-year-old returned to the same court to be sentenced today, Thursday, and showed no reaction as he was handed a section 37/41 hospital order this afternoon. This means that he will receive treatment as an inpatient until the Secretary of State deems it appropriate for him to be discharged.

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Sentencing, the Honorary Recorder of Liverpool Judge Andrew Menary KC said: "I will say at the outset that the sentence I am about to pass on you will result in you being detained in a secure hospital for the foreseeable future. How long you are detained will depend on your response to treatment, the expert views of the medical team supervising you and the extent to which you are a continuing danger to the public.

"You brutally attacked and killed your stepfather Andrew McDiarmid while he was resting in bed while suffering from the effects of covid. There was no warning to this attack and nothing had happened to provoke it.

"You simply armed yourself with a large kitchen knife, went to the bedroom and stabbed him multiple times when he was completely defenceless. Your mother was in the shower at the time and emerged to be confronted with this unfolding nightmare.

"You stabbed your victim at least 13 times with a severe degree of force, with catastrophic damage to the heart. As a consequence of what you have done, you not only took the life of Andrew McDiarmid but have also irreparably devastated the lives of so many others who have lost a precious loved one.

"It is clear that Mr McDiarmid was a kind, considerate and supportive father, stepfather and husband. He had enjoyed a successful career as a police officer and was looking forward to continuing his retirement when you cut his life short.

"There was never any doubt that you were the person responsible for this appalling crime. From an early stage, it became clear that the central issue would relate to whether, at the time of committing this offence, you were suffering from severe symptoms of mental disorder and, if so, what part they played in what you did.

"You are clearly an intelligent young man. There is no evidence to suggest that the relationship between the two of you was anything other than entirely positive.

"It seems that your epilepsy was not well controlled. By the time of the fatal attack, you were suffering clusters of seizures and a treatment regime that was not working.

"The prosecution is now satisfied that the evidence demonstrates that your ability to understand the nature of your conduct, to form a rational judgement or exercise self control was substantially impaired. If that were not the case, you would have continued to face a count of murder.

"All the medical experts agreed that, at the time of the attack, you were likely suffering from postictal psychosis. This is a condition which affects some epilepsy sufferers and is a severe mental condition in and of itself.

"It is characterised by a disconnection from reality and typically follows a cluster of epileptic seizures, and people experiencing such an episode can behave violently towards others. All of the experts agreed that the symptoms of your postictal psychosis included fluctuating combinations of thought disorder, auditory and visual hallucinations, delusions, paranoia and mood change including mania affecting reason, memory and understanding."

Referring to evidence of Moglione's interest in "bizarre" topics centring around an "underlying theme of inequality in society" - such as revolution, the monarchy and his "attitude towards his stepfather" - the judge added: "You would become fixated on a range of topics with bizarre ideas about how societal change might be effected. Some of these might have included ideas about your stepfather."

Judge Menary found that Moglione would have otherwise been liable to a term of nine years in prison before any reduction for a guilty plea, but said: "I have not overlooked whether a penal element is necessary. However, in a case such as this and in circumstances where the offending would not have happened but for your postictal psychosis, I am satisfied that public protection rather than punishment must be the principal focus of my sentence."

Gordon Cole KC previously told a jury of eight men and four women during the prosecution's opening in March that Moglione's mum Alison had called 999 at around 8.45pm on January 24 2022 and reported that her son had stabbed her husband. Emergency services subsequently attended the address and found Mr McDiarmid lying gravely wounded on top of the bed in the couple's bedroom.

He was said to have "sustained some 17 wounds to his body", 13 being stab wounds and "some described as incised wounds". Mr Cole told the court that a number of these injuries had been "inflicted with severe force".

Moglione was arrested at the scene, and has remained in hospital since. The prosecution described how all three parties had been at home on the evening in question, with the defendant - who was represented by Anne Whyte KC - having recently "come out of a period of isolation in his bedroom" due to covid.

Mr McDiarmid meanwhile was self-isolating in his room after testing positive. At around 8pm, Moglione "told his mum that he was going to take his medication before going to bed".

Around half an hour later, Ms Moglione went to shower in the upstairs bathroom. An internal CCTV camera which was situated on a table in the hallway, covering the area of the front door, then showed her son walking downstairs from his bedroom in his dressing gown and slippers before collecting a knife from a magnetic block on the wall of the kitchen.

He returned upstairs clutching the weapon in his right hand before entering Mr McDiarmid's room. Mr Cole said that "screams, groans and heavy breathing" could then be heard on the footage.

Moglione - who appeared in the dock wearing a dark grey suit alongside three members of hospital staff - subsequently entered the bathroom where his mum had been showering in order "to wash himself of blood stains" before the footage showed her walking downstairs with a towel wrapped around her, followed by her son. The bloodstained knife was later recovered from on top of the bed in the master bedroom.

Jurors were also played video footage of an interview Ms Moglione gave to the police following the incident. She detailed how her son had first started suffering from seizures while studying chemical engineering at university in Sheffield and was later diagnosed with epilepsy.

Tegretol - the medication which Moglione had subsequently been prescribed - was said to have left him "forgetful" and "very sleepy", and he switched to different tablets, lamotrigine, from September 2021 onwards. However, in December that year, his condition started "going out of control".

This saw his seizures seemingly worsen, with one coming while he was behind the wheel of his car. Moglione's medication was therefore increased "up to the top dosage" in the period leading up to Mr McDiarmid's death.

Ms Moglione told detectives how, on the night in question, she and her son had fish and chips for tea and watched the One Show and a Panorama documentary on knife crime together on the television while her partner isolated in their bedroom, having tested positive for covid. After the latter programme had finished, she recalled how her son had "jumped up and said 'I'm going to take my meds'" before going to bed as he had "not slept for two days" due to his seizures.

She then spoke to her husband over the phone at around 8.15pm, saying of their call: "It turned out to be our last conversation. Me and Andy had a talk. He said 'have a rest, do your hair and go to bed'. 'All I want you to do is focus on Ben'."

Referring to the meals she had been cooking for him while he was in isolation, Mr McDiarmid was said to have told her: "I'd be happy with cheese on toast. Focus on getting Ben right."

Ms Moglione added: "That was the last message from Andy, and I’ve taken a lot of heart from that. He said 'just focus on Ben'."

Following this conversation, she went into the bathroom to wash her hair in the shower. Ms Moglione said: "I heard this really unusual sound. It was not like a scream, it was like a sound of air. It was a very loud exhalation of air sound.

"It was something like I've never ever heard before. I turned the shower off with the shampoo still in my hair, jumped out of the shower and started to dry myself.

"Ben came into the bathroom. In my head, I thought he'd had a seizure at the top of the stairs. Then I thought, is Andy ok because of the covid? I dried myself really quickly.

"Ben came in and went to the sink. I'd thought Ben had slit his wrists."

Ms Moglione described how she saw his hands soaked with blood, and said: "I checked Ben's wrists, then started running to my bedroom. I went into the bedroom and saw Andy on our bed.

"He was leaning over to the right, and there was blood. I could tell by his face that he had gone. I knew I couldn't do anything, so I ran downstairs. I ran to the phone, picked my phone up and dialled 999. In the meantime, Ben came down saying 'don't ring the police'. I said 'I've got to'.

"I think Ben, when he’d come into the bathroom, he said 'you can start again now mum'. I was like 'oh my god, I don't want to start again, what's going on?'.

"I didn't know what I was dealing with. Ben went to put one of the knives to himself, to his side. I took it off him and moved him into the back lounge. I took control.

"I didn’t think he was going to hurt me. I said [in the 999 call] 'I think my son has killed my husband, I don’t think there’s anything I can do for my husband, I just need help'."

Benjamin Moglione
Andrew McDiarmid, known to his friends as Andy, died at a house on Oldfield Way in Heswall after sustaining critical injuries

Ms Moglione said of her son's behaviour following the incident: "It was like he wasn’t there. He was very, very ill. I just tried to calm him down. I said 'let's stay calm Ben'.

"I said 'what have you done?'. 'I love you'.

"We’d just booked a cruise to the Caribbean and Florida with Ben, Andy and I were going on a cruise to Stockholm. We had everything booked for a lovely year."

Ms Moglione was also arrested following Mr McDiarmid's death and spent the following two nights in custody. She said of this: "I’ve never even had a parking ticket in my life. I feel I didn’t know, and Andy didn't know, how ill Ben was. This could have been avoided if we had a good neurologist who had put him on the right medication.

"We’ve had a lovely life. We’ve travelled the world, we’ve bought our dream home, I’ve been able to focus on my career, all of our children are doing well. We were very similar in that we’d been career people - loving, hard working."

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