Woman who bludgeoned man to death in supermarket with wine bottles and a fire extinguisher deemed 'low-risk' by those treating her

A woman who killed a pensioner in a supermarket by repeatedly bludgeoning him to the head with wine bottles and a fire extinguisher had been deemed a "low risk" to herself and others when she was released from a mental health ward months earlier. Zara Radcliffe, 30, of Porth, had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and was experiencing a psychotic episode when she bludgeoned John Rees, 88, to death at the Co-op store in Penygraig, Rhondda Cynon Taf, on May 5, 2020.

An inquest into the pensioner's death at Pontypridd Coroners' Court heard how after noticing Radcliffe pointing a kitchen knife towards nurse Gaynor Saurin brave Mr Rees grabbed Radcliffe’s right arm and positioned himself between Radcliffe and Ms Saurin before attempting to kick out at Radcliffe. Radcliffe stabbed Mr Rees, a retired engineer and a church bell ringer, then hit him over the head with two wine bottles and a fire extinguisher. Radcliffe struck Mr Rees more than 20 times in total and a pathologist previously told the inquest Mr Rees’ medical cause of death was severe blunt force trauma to the face including multiple facial fractures.

Radcliffe, who had been diagnosed with schizophrenia months before the attack, was detained with an indefinite hospital order after admitting to manslaughter by diminished responsibility. During Radcliffe's sentencing in October 2020 Mrs Justice Jefford said she had made that decision due to the risk Radcliffe posed to the general public.

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The second day of the inquest on Tuesday heard how the mental health team responsible for Radcliffe's care, led by consultant psychiatrist Dr Kishore Kale at the Royal Glamorgan Hospital in Llantrisant, said "the risk to herself and others was considered low" at the time of her discharge on February 24, 2020. Following her discharge from the hospital Radcliffe was transferred to the community mental health team.

Radcliffe had been at the hospital since November 2019. At the time of her discharge she had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and was on daily medication. The inquest heard that during her time at the hospital there had been concerns by medical staff that she was taking illicit substances while on daily leave.

Radcliffe had tested positive for cannabis and cocaine. She tested positive for cannabis 12 days after her risk assessment in January 2020 and positive for cocaine a day before she was discharged from the Royal Glamorgan Hospital in February 2020. The inquest heard that it was not possible to determine whether she was experiencing any side effects from these substances at the time of the incident on May 5. For the latest court reports sign up to our crime newsletter here.

Dr Kale said when discussing Radcliffe's potential hospital discharge his team "broadly discussed" the patient's history of taking illicit substances while on leave and that she would need to be monitored regularly because of this. Dr Kale acknowledged that Radcliffe's risk would "significantly increase" when discharged to the community due to access to such substances and also less monitoring of medication.

Dr Kale told the inquest how Radcliffe had during her time at the hospital "expressed that she wasn't comfortable with the side effects" of taking some medication, predominantly weight gain. Senior coroner Graeme Hughes asked whether it was correct to say that Radcliffe "was identified as a risk to others when not taking medication" to which Dr Kale agreed.

At the point of her discharge in February 2020 Dr Kale confirmed there were "no concerns about [her] capacity" to take this medication. Dr Kale told the inquest that Radcliffe had expressed to staff her intention to do so and confirmed that no new risk assessment was triggered as a result of her being discharged.

The inquest also heard from Laura Morse who was the care coordinator allocated to Radcliffe under Rhondda Cynon Taf’s local authority community mental health team. She was allocated to Radcliffe on February 25 – the day after her discharge from hospital. She first met Radcliffe on March 2 where she met her with a colleague because she was “aware that Zara had in the past caused harm to staff”.

Ms Morse told the inquest she was aware that Radcliffe had in the past been “non-compliant with prescribed medication” but that she stated to the community team at this time that she was taking her medication. Detailing this meeting Ms Morse said there was “nothing alerting me to non-compliance” and that there were “no concerns about Zara’s compliance on March 2.” It was heard how at this time Radcliff had said she was hearing voices but that these were “reassuring”.

At this time Ms Morse said she had a conversation with Radcliffe’s mother who said she thought that “without her giving Zara the medication she would not take it”. The coroner asked Ms Morse whether she believed Radcliffe’s mother and father, whom she was living with. would be aware of who to contact should their daughter’s health deteriorate to which she replied: “I was satisfied.”

She added that at this time “mum was quite confident that Zara was doing well”. The inquest heard Ms Morse then had no contact with Radcliffe or her parents until May 4. In this time no care and treatment plan was provided for Radcliffe. Addressing the coroner’s question as to why this took so long Ms Morse said: “I can’t give you a definite answer as to why that care and treatment plan was not provided.” Asked whether it was unusual for a report to take this long she said: “For myself this would be an unusual occurrence not for this to be completed within six weeks.” The inquest continues.