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Scratched tractor leads to stabbing

By Ashbourne News Telegraph  |  Posted: September 19, 2012

By Gareth Butterfield

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AN Alton man stabbed his neighbour with a chisel four times while suffering from an undiagnosed mental illness, a court has heard.

John Swinson, of Cheadle Road, appeared before Stoke Crown Court after attacking Walter Keeling with the chisel following an altercation over a scratched tractor on December 27.

The court heard the neighbours had been in a long-running dispute which led to both men being cautioned by police back in 2007 but things came to head just after Christmas when farmer Mr Keeling found a scratch on his new tractor and blamed Swinson.

The 54-year-old was sentenced to a hospital order after he was found to be suffering from bipolar disorder, which he has been suffering from for most his adult life.

Consultant forensic psychiatrist Doctor Helen Whitworth asked for the hospital order saying the defendant was a risk of harm to Mr Keeling and others if a history develops with them.

She said this was a ‘significant’ factor in the assault as he would have been unable to make a reasonable assessment of the situation and would have believed his life was in danger.

Dr Whitworth said: “It is impossible for him to accept he is suffering from a mental illness.

His insight is poor, if not absent.

“He has a history of non-compliance with the hospital only last week he spit out one of his tablets which shows a lack of insight into his medication.” Fiona Cortese, defending, said there had been ill feeling between the two men over some land and on the day of the incident Mr Keeling saw Swinson outside his van.

Swinson stabbed his neighbour with the chisel once in the chest and the three times in the abdomen which pierced through his t-shirt and two jumpers. He was taken to hospital by air ambulance and was kept in for observations but did not need surgery.

Swinson was arrested after blood was found on the chisel but it became clear he was unwell and was taken to the Hatherton Centre, in Stafford, where he is receiving treatment.

Antony Longworth, defending, said: “Due to his medical condition it is likely he was unable to make a reasonable assessment of the situation. He grabbed the first thing he could, which unfortunately turned out to be a very sharp chisel.

“Mr Keeling and Mr Swinson are fortunate the injuries were not more severe as they could have been life-threatening.

“He is incapable of unlawful wounding with any intent as intent is beyond the defendant himself.

“Nothing I have said is to distract from the injuries suffered by Mr Keeling.” Judge Robert Trevor-Jones also sentenced Swinson, who admitted unlawful wounding, to a restriction order which can only be lifted by the Secretary of State for Justice.

The judge said: “This clearly became a most serious incident which obviously started as part of an ongoing history between yourself and Mr Keeling. You took it to a different dimension with what began as a dispute over a scratched tractor becoming something quite different when you picked up the chisel and thrust it into his chest and abdomen.

“You clearly lost control but I accept that at that time you were suffering from a severe medical disorder and it was not done with any intent.

“Despite several months of treatment and medication, you are still to come to terms with your medical disorder which is a considerable worry.”

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