Page last updated at 16:52 GMT, Wednesday, 18 February 2009

On-the-run killer is found dead

Paul Caesar
Paul Caesar escaped from the secure facility in Tooting on Tuesday

A convicted killer who escaped from a secure mental hospital in south London has died after being hit by a train.

Paul Caesar absconded from Springfield Hospital in Tooting on Tuesday morning, having been held there for 11 years.

The 37-year-old had pleaded guilty to manslaughter in 1997, after killing a man in Battersea, south London.

Caesar died at Balham railway station, south London, two hours after going missing. British Transport Police said there were no suspicious circumstances.

His remains could not be identified after being hit by the train.

They were taken to a centre in north-west London, where a forensic examination confirmed the body was his.

Caesar had failed to return after spending time unescorted in the hospital grounds on Tuesday morning and people were warned not to approach him.

The hospital does some great work but events such as this, which appear to be becoming more frequent, undo a lot of the goodwill that has been built up among local residents
Sadiq Khan
Labour MP for Tooting

Judy Wilson, interim chief executive of South West London and St George's Mental Health NHS Trust, said an inquiry into the escape was under way.

"The trust is committed to learning all that it can from this serious incident and will be conducting a full investigation," she said.

In October 1997, Caesar was charged with murder but pleaded guilty to manslaughter at Inner London Crown Court.

He was sectioned under the Mental Health Act for an indefinite period.

Previous escapes

There have been several instances of patients absconding from Springfield Hospital in recent years.

In 2004, a paranoid schizophrenic fled and stabbed a man to death in an unprovoked attack in Richmond Park, south-west London.

This led to an inquiry which found serious failings on the part of the hospital.

The same year, a patient convicted of attempted murder went on the run for a week, while two patients escaped in the space of a fortnight in 2005.

Another two patients absconded in 2006, travelling 400 miles by train before being arrested six hours later.

And last November a suspected burglar was missing for a week after fleeing Springfield Hospital with an alleged murderer, who was recaptured after three days.

'Not a prison'

The MP for Tooting, Sadiq Khan, said he had "serious concerns" about security at the hospital in the wake of Caesar's death.

He is to raise these with the chief executive of the South West London and St George's NHS Trust.

Usually all patients who are granted escorted and/or unescorted leave are being given leave as part of a rehabilitation plan
South West London and St George's NHS Trust statement

"The hospital does some great work but events such as this, which appear to be becoming more frequent, undo a lot of the goodwill that has been built up among local residents," Mr Khan said.

In a statement, the trust said that Springfield was "a hospital, not a prison" and explaining there was a process to gradually grant leave to patients to "rehabilitate" them.

"Usually all patients who are granted escorted and/or unescorted leave are being given leave as part of a rehabilitation plan, which is intended to lead to their discharge from the hospital and eventually back to a community placement.

"The Ministry of Justice requires patients to follow graded trial leave periods. Patients are granted escorted leave followed by escorted community leave.

"If these trial leave periods are successful, the patient will be considered for unescorted ground leave."

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SEE ALSO
Police hunt killer after escape
18 Feb 09 |  London

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