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Wellington man detained under Mental Health Act for manslaughter

A Wellington man has been detained under the Mental Health Act for stabbing his neighbour to death.

John William Walker, 65, of Fowler Close, Wellington, earlier admitted the manslaughter of 52-year-old Mark Espley on grounds of diminished responsibility and was sentenced today by Stafford Crown Court.

The court heard there was a difficult relationship between the pair, who were neighbours at maisonette style flats with a shared communal garden.

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Walker’s mental health took a downturn after his pet Chihuahua Tilly died in July 2021, leading to him befriending the local squirrel population by feeding them nuts.

The increased squirrel population in the communal garden area was much to the annoyance of other neighbours including Mr Espley.

Walker’s mental health deteriorated further and, on the morning of Saturday 18th June 2022, he waited in the communal garden at Fowler Close for a number of hours and confronted Mr Espley with a kitchen knife when he appeared, stabbing him a number of times. Mr Espley died at the scene.

Police were called by a neighbour but Walker voluntarily attended Malinsgate police station and admitted what he had done.

Walker was initially charged with murder but a guilty plea to manslaughter owing to diminished responsibility was accepted in November 2022 following psychiatric reports.

Judge Christina Montgomery KC said that the lead up to the killing triggered “doormant symptoms” in Walker.

Defence Counsel for Walker Philippa McAtasney KC said Walker was “very distressed and genuinely full of remorse”.

Senior Investigating Officer Detective Inspector Lee Holehouse said: “This is clearly a tragic case. At the time of the offence, Walker was suffering from an abnormality of mental functioning arising from a recognised medical condition.

“We would like to thank members of the public and the local community in Wellington who supported and assisted with the investigation and I hope that the sentencing provides some degree of comfort for Mr Espley’s family.”

A referral to the Independent Office for Police Conduct was made in respect of events leading up to Mr Espley’s death.

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