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Man who killed men he thought were paedophiles is found not guilty of murder

Alexander Lewis-Ranwell has been found not guilty of three charges of murder by reason of insanity (Picture: PA – SWNS)

A paranoid schizophrenic who brutally killed three pensioners mistakenly believing they were paedophiles has been found not guilty of three charges of murder by reason of insanity.

Alexander Lewis-Ranwell, 28, killed Anthony Payne, 80, and 84-year-old twin brothers, Roger and Dick Carter in frenzied attacks using a hammer and spade, on 10 February.

The jury were asked to decide whether Lewis-Ranwell ‘did not know it was against the law’ when he killed the three men.

A jury of eight men and four women at Exeter Crown Court took six hours and 15 minutes to return their unanimous verdicts.

The court heard the former scaffolder was gripped by paranoid schizophrenia and suffering from delusions about saving young girls from a paedophile ring.

Three psychiatrists agreed Lewis-Ranwell was insane at the time he battered his first victim, Mr Payne, with a hammer and bludgeoned to death with a shovel twins Dick and Roger Carter.

The prosecution argued the defendant bore some responsibility for what happened.

Last week, the court saw CCTV of Lewis-Ranwell leaving a police station the morning before he went on to kill the three men.

A series of videos released by the Crown Prosecution Service showed the killer’s last movements. He is seen wearing a grey sweatshirt and grey trousers, carrying a black bag.

One shows him approaching his first victim’s home, knocking on the door and casually walking inside.

The court heard that while inside the home he launched the brutal attack on Mr Payne using a rusty hammer.

Just under three hours later, Lewis-Ranwell was seen on CCTV outside his second two victims’ home.

One of the elderly brothers who lived there tried to usher the defendant away from the house but Lewis-Ranwell went around to the back of the house to find a spade.

He climbed over the wall and used the spade to ‘beat both brothers to death with blows to the head’, Prosecutor Richard Smith told Exeter Crown Court.

Alexander Lewis-Ranwell is seen in CCTV footage being released from Barnstaple police station the morning before he went on to kill three people (Picture: SWNS)
Lewis-Ranwell captured on Cowick Lane near to the home of victims Dick and Roger Carter (Picture: SWNS)

Just hours before Lewis-Ranwell attacked Mr Payne in an upstairs bedroom of his home, he had been released from police custody after being arrested for attacking farmer John Ellis, 82, with a saw.

This was his second arrest in the space of 24 hours and occurred just seven hours after he had been arrested for attempted burglary at another farm.

He was released on police bail on the morning of the murders without a mental health assessment.

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 and will be appropriately addressed following these verdicts’.

The court heard evidence of Lewis-Ranwell’s interaction with various health professionals during his three spells in custody between February 8 and 11.

After his first arrest his mother, Jill Lewis-Ranwell, had phoned police expressing ‘grave concerns should he be released’ but he was charged and let go.

Three psychiatrists agreed Lewis-Ranwell was insane when he killed the three pensioners
Anthony Payne, 80, was Lewis-Ranwell’s first victim (Picture: SWNS)

He was released from custody at Barnstaple police station at 2.49am on February 9 but returned there seven hours later after attacking Mr Ellis.

A 12-minute triage call with a mental health practitioner at 3pm identified ‘potential psychotic symptoms present including paranoid beliefs’.

An inspector reviewing his detention wrote at 4.11pm that Lewis-Ranwell ‘potentially presents as a serious risk to the public if released’.

A forensic medical examiner – a doctor employed by G4S Health Services – was escorted to Lewis-Ranwell’s cell at 6.30pm but deemed he was not ‘acutely unwell’ and a full mental health assessment was not carried out.

Dr Mihal Pichui told jurors he left the police station with the ‘expectation’ he would be seen by a mental health nurse the following morning but later found out this did not happen.

Lewis-Ranwell was released from Barnstaple police station at 9.32am and travelled to Exeter.

He went into Mr Payne’s home at about 12.30pm and bludgeoned him to death with the hammer. Two hours and 45 minutes later, he scaled the wall of the Carter brothers’ home, found a spade in their garden and used it to beat them both to death.

Police outside the home of Roger and Dick Carter, 84, in Cowick Lane, Exeter (Picture: SWNS)
Former public schoolboy Alexander Lewis-Ranwell used a spade to murder the twin brothers (Picture: SWNS)

The defendant told a psychiatrist following his detention at Broadmoor secure hospital: ‘I cannot believe no-one helped me – they let me out twice when I was unwell.’

One doctor said the defendant was living in a ‘very nightmarish world’ and believed he had a ‘moral justification’ for the killings because he was rescuing people.

Lewis-Ranwell also thought the police had ‘sanctioned his actions’ because they had twice released him from custody.

Another psychiatrist said he was on a ‘quest’ to rescue girls from a locked cellar.

Lewis-Ranwell, from Croyde, north Devon, had admitted the killings but pleaded not guilty to murder by reason of insanity.

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