Police failed to catch the Nottingham killer for nine months when he was wanted for another offence before he stabbed three strangers to death.
Nottinghamshire Police issued a warrant for the arrest of Valdo Calocane in September 2022 after he failed to appear in court in connection with an assault on an officer who was taking him to hospital for mental health treatment.
But officers failed to track him down and make the arrest, leaving Calocane free to launch his fatal attacks on Barnaby Webber, Grace O’Malley-Kumar and Ian Coates in June last year.
The assault on the officer came as Calocane spiralled into a mental health crisis during the Covid lockdowns, undergoing a series of profound psychotic episodes in the months leading up to the horrific attacks in Nottingham.
Lawyers have said that Calocane should have been in the care of health officials instead of being left free to kill.
Speaking after prosecutors accepted Calocane’s pleas of not guilty to murder on the grounds of diminished responsibility owing to “serious” mental illness, Assistant Chief Constable Rob Griffin said: “In August 2022, he [Calocane] was reported for summons and was due to attend court on Sept 22 2022 for the assault on our officer. He failed to appear on that occasion and a warrant for his arrest was issued in September 2022.
“The defendant was never arrested for that warrant which was still outstanding at the point of his arrest in June 2023.”
Calocane was formally diagnosed as suffering from paranoid schizophrenia in July 2020, shortly after the first Covid lockdown ended.
During a number of psychotic episodes he was in regular contact with mental health services, but stopped taking his prescribed treatment and frequently refused to engage with the health professionals trying to help him.
Calocane, who had come to believe that he was being spied on by his housemates and by MI6 and that his family was under threat, was initially detained at Nottingham’s Highbury Hospital in May 2020, when he was treated with an antipsychotic medication.
He was discharged on June 17 to the care of the Nottingham City Crisis Team, before being readmitted after trying to force his way into his flat and another address when he stopped taking his medication.
This became a regular pattern over the following months, with Calocane being released from hospital and going on to behave erratically and in several cases violently, including the assault on a police officer transporting him to Highbury Hospital in September 2021. He also became involved in physical confrontations with his flatmates.
In mid-January 2022 an assessment under the Mental Health Act concluded that he could continue to be treated in the community.
But the court heard that Calocane failed again to engage adequately with the Home Treatment Team and failed to collect his medication.
In May 2023, a few weeks before the fatal attacks on Barnaby, Grace and Mr Coates, he attacked two work colleagues at a warehouse in Kegworth.
Calocane’s parents ‘can’t talk about him’
What led to Calocane’s descent into psychosis has long troubled those who knew him.
His parents, who are originally from Guinea-Bissau, had moved from Portugal to the south Wales town of Haverfordwest in 2007.
They strove to make a life for themselves, with Calocane’s mother, Celeste, working as an intensive care nurse and his father as a carer in the community.
Shortly after arriving in Pembrokeshire however, Calocane, an introverted young boy with a passion for football, left home and lost contact with his parents for a number of years.
Speaking at the family home ahead of his sentencing, Mrs Calocane said she could “no longer speak about Valdo”.
She added: “It is too painful. I cannot talk about it.” Her husband, Amissao, 55, said: “We can’t talk about him, we just can’t.”
Adrian Vaughan, the pastor at the Calvary Church attended by the Calocane family in Haverfordwest, told The Telegraph: “He moved away from home sooner than his parents wanted him to and they lost touch with him. Something happened to him when he left home.”
Brother had straightforward path
In contrast to Calocane, his younger brother Elias had a relatively straightforward path through school, going on to gain a place at Cambridge University before starting a career in computing, with Citrix, the American multinational.
Writing on a social media page for King’s College black and ethnic minority students, Elias, who was 11 at the time of the move to the UK, suggested he may have coped more easily than his older brother with the family’s transition to the predominantly white community of Haverfordwest.
Elias, now 27, wrote in 2018: “It was strange because you go from a really multicultural environment to a place like that. Thinking back now, that change only worked because I was 11.
“When you’re a kid, you’re not as resistant to change. Now, something as jarring as that would be horrible. You’re going from a city to a really small town, multicultural to a predominantly white area.”
He added: “You don’t know how to speak the language so most things are against you.
“When I first moved, my idea was not to stand out. It’s the kind of thing that is easier as a child in a sense, being able to adapt more easily.”
After losing touch with his family for around a decade, Calocane made contact again in 2019 and gained a place at Nottingham University, to study mechanical engineering.
“[His parents] were proud of the fact that after him moving away from home, losing contact with them, possibly getting in with the wrong crowd, he had gone to university,” said Mr Vaughan.
“They were very proud then, they told me that.”
Mental health impacted by pandemic
But over the next three years, Calocane’s time at university was badly affected by the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns.
Mr Vaughan said that during the lockdowns of 2020 and 2021, Calocane’s mental health fell apart.
He said: “He did get depressed during the lockdown. He did suffer in lockdown, he was on powerful antidepressants. And I suppose if you take that alongside cannabis and alcohol… I know he was hearing voices.”
Friends of the family said that as a young man there had been nothing amiss about Calocane’s behaviour and his mental health had not been an issue.
One close friend of the Calocane family, who had watched him grow up in the close-knit seaside town, said: “He was grounded, a very active member in school, you know clubs, sporty, all of it, totally engaged.
“There was nothing strange about him or the family, just an absolutely beautiful family, very pleasant.”
Another friend, neighbour, Sarah Pollock, 52, spoke highly of the Calocanes, describing them as a “wonderful family”.
She said: “I don’t know how I could manage knowing my child that I have nurtured and loved and grown up with… how do you comprehend those actions as a mother… they have given birth to somebody who is ill who has killed people.”
Calocane displayed ‘extremely odd behaviour’
At a previous hearing, Peter Joyce KC, Calocane’s defence barrister, said that his client had been under the care of local mental health services from early 2020 and had been admitted several times before being discharged again.
He said police had also been called and taken him to mental health facilities after he displayed “extremely odd... bizarre, dangerous behaviour”.
“He ought to have been under the eye of mental health services,” Mr Joyce said.
Calocane was formally diagnosed as suffering from paranoid schizophrenia in July 2020. Despite the isolation from the Covid lockdown, and his worsening mental health, Calocane did graduate from the University of Nottingham in the summer of 2022, much to the pride of his family.
That same month, Calocane allegedly travelled to MI5’s headquarters at Thames House in London and demanded to be let in.
A security source told The Sun newspaper that Calocane was “moved on” and his details taken after the incident.
Calocane is believed to have been living in a property close to where his attack on Barnaby and Grace took place until shortly after his graduation, in September 2022 when he and other tenants were evicted following a police raid.
One local resident claimed there was always a strong smell of cannabis coming from the house and the landlord finally lost patience and placed the property up for sale.
It is not clear where Calocane, who often used the alias Adam Mendes, moved to over the next year but it was believed he may have been sleeping rough in the capital.
In the early hours of the morning of June 13 2023, he re-emerged in Nottingham after travelling from London dressed in black clothing and carrying a large holdall.
He spent hours wandering the streets, before launching an unprovoked attack on Barnaby and Grace as they walked home after a night out.
His third victim, Mr Coates, was found dead with knife injuries a short distance away on Magdala Road after his van was stolen.
The family of Barnaby – a history student from Taunton in Somerset – described their “complete devastation” at his death, saying he was a “beautiful, brilliant, bright young man, with everything in life to look forward to”.
Grace’s family said the medical student and keen hockey player was a “truly wonderful and beautiful young lady”, and that she would be “so dearly missed”.
Mr Vaughan said Calocane’s parents were in a “terrible state” coming to terms with the “evil” killings and could not understand how, or why, their son had taken the lives of three people.
“From the time they stepped foot in this country his parents have worked every second, every minute to provide for their family.
“Valdo has destroyed his own life, he has caused his parents immense grief, just as the parents of those who have lost their loved ones are grieving intensely.
“It is a different kind of grief perhaps, but it is still grief. There are a lot of broken hearts.”
Rising crime rate
Calocane’s killing spree came as reports showed that Nottingham city centre has the 15th highest rate of reports of crime nationally.
Figures showed there were 1,761 reports of a violent or sexual nature for the Nottingham city centre area between March 2022 and March 2023 – the 18th-highest rate in England and Wales.
The figures also revealed the area has the country’s seventh-highest rate of reports of drug crime and the eighth-highest rate of weapons possession offences.
The findings raised concern in the city after a period which had seen it recover from a reputation for gun crime and violence which had earned it the nickname ‘Shottingham’ in the early 2000s.
Nottinghamshire Police have been among a number of forces criticised in recent years for spending too much time on woke issues, such as apologising to LGBT people for their past treatment, rather than fighting crime.
Defending the force, Simon Riley, Nottinghamshire Police Federation chair, said in 2022: “One of the latest criticisms of the police service is that we have become too ‘woke’ and this has become especially prevalent in the approach to the recent surge in protests by climate change activists.”