Compton Acres: Coroner says NHS trusts ‘missed opportunity’ to reassess man who killed graduate

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A coroner has said the NHS ‘missed an opportunity’ after it emerged a disturbed man tipped a social worker he had a knife five days before he stabbed a millionaire’s son to death.

Paul Taylor was in the custody of NHS mental health services when he killed Ryan Merna, whose parents Kaye and Bernard own Compton Acres, a botanic garden in Dorset.

The 29-year-old arts graduate was stabbed 32 times during the frenzied attack at his Poole flat in August 2016.

Taylor, then 50, was staying with his friend Mr Merna at the time and told officers at the time: ‘You better get in there. I hope he’s dead now.

He was convicted of manslaughter on the basis of diminished responsibility and detained indefinitely under the Mental Health Act in 2017.

After an inquest into Mr Merna’s death, Dorset Deputy Coroner Richard Middleton said action should have been taken after Taylor disclosed the knife.

He also said there was a ‘missed opportunity’ to investigate Taylor’s living conditions at the mental health meeting held five days before he killed Mr Merna.

Paul Taylor was in the custody of social services when he killed Ryan Merna, 29 (pictured), whose parents Kaye and Bernard own Compton Acres

Paul Taylor (pictured), then 50 and homeless, was convicted on Tuesday August 8, 2017 of Ryan's murder following a 16-day trial at Winchester Crown Court.

Paul Taylor (pictured), then 50 and homeless, was convicted on Tuesday August 8, 2017 of Ryan’s murder following a 16-day trial at Winchester Crown Court.

Sculptures at Italian Garden, Compton Acres, Poole, Dorset

Sculptures at Italian Garden, Compton Acres, Poole, Dorset

In his report on preventing future deaths, Mr Middleton wrote: ‘During this meeting the attacker revealed he was in possession of a knife, was sleeping rough and was needed the knife for his own protection.

“Members of the Dorset Forensic (mental health) team did not investigate where the perpetrator was sleeping.”

He added that the fact that he said he was carrying a knife was not investigated by the forensic social worker, who works with offenders with mental health issues.

This was also not recorded at the time in his files and not raised at a meeting of the care plan – which oversees all of the care people with mental health issues receive – held the day after the disclosure.

The coroner’s findings were sent to the chief executive of Dorset HealthCare University NHS Foundation Trust, who was responsible for Taylor’s care through the mental health team at St Ann’s Hospital in Canford Cliffs, Poole.

Sculptures at Italian Garden, Compton Acres, Poole, Dorset

Sculptures at Italian Garden, Compton Acres, Poole, Dorset

Mr Middleton made a series of recommendations, including that they immediately alert the police to patients who reveal they are carrying lethal weapons.

He wrote: “The Trust should do its best to identify where a user of the service lives by referring to information from the individual and that which may be in the public domain.

“When it is disclosed that a service user is in possession of an offensive weapon, this must be documented; there must be a documented discussion of the answer; the information must be passed on to the police; any action taken by the trust and/or the police must be documented.

“In my opinion, urgent action must be taken to prevent future deaths and I believe that you and/or your organization have the power to take such action.”

Dorset HealthCare said it accepted the coroner’s finding and will make changes to “minimize the risk of such a tragedy happening again”.

Kaye and Bernard Merna whose son, Ryan, was killed in 2016

Kaye and Bernard Merna whose son, Ryan, was killed in 2016

A Dorset HealthCare spokesperson said: ‘We have accepted the Deputy Coroner’s finding in Ryan’s death in 2016.

“As a trust, we have worked hard to learn from this tragic event and have given further thought to the details discussed at the inquest in March this year.”

“We are carefully reviewing the action points outlined in the Deputy Coroner’s report and will make changes to try to minimize the risk of such a tragedy happening again.”

Winchester Crown Court heard in 2017 that at 1.35pm on Sunday August 14, 2016, officers were called to report a fight in progress and the sound of screaming coming from a ground floor flat at Greenwood Cottages in Wessex Road in Poole.

When officers arrived, one spotted Taylor exiting the side of the apartments.

She challenged him and he stopped, held up his bloodstained hands and said, “You better come in.” I hope he’s dead now.

Court heard officers entered the property and found victim Ryan Merna at the bottom of the stairs in the common hallway.

He was stabbed multiple times and died at the scene.

Taylor was arrested at the apartment and when cautioned he replied, “I hope I murdered him”. It would make my day. Go cheer me up and tell me he’s dead.

Sculptures at the Italian Garden, Compton Acres, Poole, Dorset, where Mr Merna worked

Sculptures at the Italian Garden, Compton Acres, Poole, Dorset, where Mr Merna worked

Detective Inspector Richard Dixey of MCIT said in 2017: ‘Ryan died following a brutal knife attack by someone he had classified as his friend.

“His death was tragic and unnecessary and I hope today’s sentence will help Ryan’s friends and family in some way as a step towards closure during what has been a terribly traumatic time.”

Mr Merna worked at Compton Acres, which has five themed gardens and overlooks Poole Harbor and is also a stone’s throw from the millionaire resort of Sandbanks.

The venue is owned by Mr Merna’s parents, Bernard Merna, a chartered surveyor, and his wife Kaye, who bought it for £2million in 2002.

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