A paranoid schizophrenic has been found not guilty of three charges of murder over the killings of three pensioners he thought were paedophiles.
Alexander Lewis-Ranwell, 28, battered Anthony Payne, 80, to death with a hammer before bludgeoning 84-year-old twins Dick and Roger Carter to death with a shovel just hours later.
A jury at Exeter Crown Court had to decide whether Lewis-Ranwell, 28, “did not know it was against the law” when he killed the three men.
The panel of eight men and four women took six hours and 15 minutes to return their unanimous verdicts to find him not guilty of murder by reason of insanity.
The killings took place in Exeter on 10 February at two houses just a mile and half away from each other.
Lewis-Randell, from Croyde, north Devon, admitted the killings but denied murder on the grounds of insanity.
The jury at Exeter Crown Court heard during his trial that he suffers from paranoid schizophrenia.
The former scaffolder was gripped by mental illness and suffering from delusions about saving young girls from a paedophile ring, the court heard.
It was told Lewis-Ranwell may have wrongly believed the men were part of a child sex ring when he attacked them.
Before returning their verdicts, the jury had given a note to the judge in which they raised their concerns about the “state of psychiatric services in the county of Devon and the failings in care in Alexander Lewis-Ranwell’s case”.
During the trial, prosecutors argued that Lewis-Ranwell was in fact guilty of manslaughter by reason of diminished responsibility – saying he bore some responsibility in law for what happened.
Richard Smith QC, prosecuting, said the Crown had accepted that Lewis-Ranwell has a mental illness which “significantly contributed” to what happened on 10 February.
“The prosecution accepts that because of the way he acted his responsibility should be reduced in the eyes of the law from murder to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility,” he said.
“The Crown does not accept that it would be right for him to be found not guilty on the grounds of insanity as is contended on his behalf.”
Andrew Langdon QC, defending, said three psychiatrists had all concluded that Lewis-Ranwell was suffering from a severe psychotic illness and the prosecution had offered no expert evidence to contradict their opinions.
“It is beyond our comprehension unless we are beginning to understand how a psychotic mind might work,” said Mr Langdon.
“Where does the responsibility lie? Is it the man or is it his illness?”
Trial judge Mrs Justice May told the jury the facts of the case were “distressing” but that they should treat the evidence “dispassionately”.