BBC Home
Explore the BBC
BBC News
Launch consoleBBC NEWS CHANNEL
Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 February, 2004, 17:07 GMT
Who is to blame for Tube murder?
Christophe Duclos
Frenchman Mr Duclos had worked in England for six years
The family of a man murdered by a drug addict on the Tube have blamed mental health services for not keeping the offender in hospital. BBC News Online considers whether doctors could really have done more.

Stephen Soans-Wade, 36, began a 13-year minimum sentence for murder on Tuesday after pushing Christophe Duclos onto the tracks at Mile End station, east London, in September 2002.

Prior to the incident, he had tried to get into hospital but was discharged several times because doctors found no evidence of mental illness and suspected him of stealing drugs.

The jury agreed with the medics by rejecting his plea of manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility.

But Mr Duclos`s brother Emmanuel has no doubt the tragedy could have been prevented.

There's a lot of blame surrounding this but it's the person who has committed this crime and he needs to take responsibility
Dr David Harper
Senior psychology lecturer
University of East London
He said: "Why was he outside, an individual with such a violent history, an accident waiting to happen? The system failed Christophe."

Marjorie Wallace, chief executive of the mental health charity SANE, said: "This case exposes a loop-hole in mental health law that can leave people not considered to have a treatable mental illness to fend for themselves alone in the community.

"This small group of people with severe anti-social personality disorder - often exacerbated by drug abuse - fall between the psychiatric services, who do not want to disrupt already overcrowded wards, and the criminal justice system."


However Dr David Harper, senior lecturer in clinical psychology at the University of East London, disagrees and thinks little more could have been done.

He told BBC News Online: "These are very uncommon incidents and the danger is that mental health policy becomes driven by media headlines.

"These are very unpredictable situations and there are many people who make threats and do not do anything.

Stephen Soans-Wade
Soans-Wade said he would only feel safe in hospital
"It's unclear whether this incident was caused by anger or retaliation against the system, rather than mental health problems."

He said violent people who falsely claim to be mentally ill add to the stigma of those who genuinely are.

Dr Harper said research has found the frequency of a person with diagnosed psychosis committing murder is so low it would require 5,000 people to be detained to prevent one murder.

And throwing money at specialist units is not the way to improve services, he said.


"We need to move towards providing the kind of services that mental health service users want and find acceptable.

"This case is unusual because he wanted to go into a psychiatric ward.

"Most people want treatment in their own homes and not just medication, but talking treatment too."

He was a drug addict who had previously exploited the system to gain access to hospital accommodation and free drugs
Detective Chief Inspector Mark Newton
But anyone who says some specific treatment would have prevented a tragedy is "whistling in the wind", he said.

A spokeswoman for MIND told BBC News Online the GP route was available for people who were not in acute need.

But she added: "People who suddenly become very ill either get picked up by the police, turn up at A&E or do something dramatic.

"None of these is how people who are mentally ill should be receiving help."

A statement issued by the East London and the City Mental Health NHS Trust said Soans-Wade was admitted into St Clement's Hospital in Bow several times for assessment.

It said: "The team could not find any evidence of mental illness which warranted his continued stay in hospital.

"In addition, he was assessed by a range of mental health services across London. It is clear from the evidence presented in court that their findings supported ours."

Life for Tube platform murderer
24 Feb 04  |  London
Man guilty of murder on the Tube
30 Jan 04  |  London

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


News Front Page | World | UK | England | Northern Ireland | Scotland | Wales | Politics
Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health | Education
Have Your Say | Magazine | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific