Coroner says NHS trust ‘missed opportunity’ to reassess risk posed by a disturbed man, 50, who warned a social worker he had a knife five days before stabbing a millionaire’s son to death
- Paul Taylor was under the care of an NHS team when he killed Ryan Merna, 29
- Taylor, then aged 50, was friends with Mr Merna and had been staying with him
- The 29-year-old art graduate was stabbed 32 times in a frenzied attack in his flat
- Ryan’s parents Kaye and Bernard own botanical garden Compton Acres in Dorset
A coroner has said the NHS ‘missed an opportunity’ after it emerged a disturbed man warned a social worker he had a knife five days before he stabbed a millionaire’s son to death.
Paul Taylor was under the care of NHS mental health services when he killed Ryan Merna, whose parents Kaye and Bernard own Compton Acres, a botanical garden in Dorset.
The 29-year-old art graduate was stabbed 32 times in the frenzied attack in his flat in Poole in August 2016.
Taylor, then aged 50, had been staying with his friend Mr Merna at the time and told officers at the time: ‘Best get in there. Hopefully he’s dead by now.’
He was found guilty of manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility and detained indefinitely under the mental health act in 2017.
After an inquest into Mr Merna’s death Dorset assistant coroner Richard Middleton said action should have been taken after Taylor’s disclosure about the knife.
He also said there was a ‘missed opportunity’ to probe Taylor’s living arrangements in the mental health meeting held five days before he killed Mr Merna.
Paul Taylor was under the care of social services when he killed 29-year-old Ryan Merna (pictured), whose parents Kaye and Bernard own Compton Acres
In his Prevention of Future Deaths report Mr Middleton wrote: ‘During the course of that meeting the perpetrator disclosed that he was in possession of a knife, that he was sleeping rough and he needed the knife for his own protection.
‘The members of the Dorset Forensic (Mental Health) Team did not probe as to where the perpetrator was sleeping.’
He added the fact that he said he was carrying a knife was not probed further by the forensic social worker, who work with offenders with mental health problems.
It was also not recorded at the time in his records and not raised during a Care Programme Meeting – which monitors the package of care people with mental health problems receive – held the day following the disclosure.
The coroner’s findings have been sent to the chief executive of Dorset HealthCare University NHS Foundation Trust, who were responsible for Taylor’s care through the mental health team at St Ann’s Hospital in Canford Cliffs, Poole.
Sculptures at The Italian Garden, Compton Acres, Poole, Dorset
Mr Middleton made a series of recommendations, including that they alert police straight away about patients who disclose they are carrying lethal weapons.
He wrote: ‘The Trust should use its best endeavours to identify where a service user is living by reference to information to be sourced from the individual and from that which may be in the public domain.
‘Where there is disclosure that a service user is in possession of an offensive weapon this must be documented; there must be a documented discussion as to the response; the information must be passed to the police; any action taken by the trust and/or the police to be documented.
‘In my opinion urgent action should be taken to prevent future deaths and I believe you and/or your organisation have the power to take such action.’
Dorset HealthCare said they accepted the coroner’s conclusion and will make changes to ‘minimise the risk of such a tragedy happening again’.
Kaye and Bernard Merna whose son, Ryan, was killed in 2016
A spokesperson for Dorset HealthCare said: ‘We accepted the assistant coroner’s conclusion about how Ryan died in 2016.
‘As a Trust, we have worked hard to learn from this tragic event and have been reflecting further on details considered during the inquest in March this year.
‘We are carefully reviewing the action points outlined in the assistant coroner’s report and will make changes to try to minimise the risk of such a tragedy ever happening again.’
Winchester Crown Court heard in 2017 that at 1.35pm on Sunday, 14 August 2016 officers were called to reports of a fight taking place 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 coming out of the side of the flats.
She challenged him and he stopped, raised his bloodstained hands and said: ‘Best get in there. Hopefully he’s dead by now.’
The court heard that officers went into the property and found victim Ryan Merna at the bottom of the stairs in the communal hallway.
He had been stabbed multiple times and died at the scene.
Taylor was arrested at the flat and when cautioned, replied: ‘I hope I’ve murdered him. That would make my day. Go on cheer me up and tell me he’s dead.’
Sculptures at The Italian Garden, Compton Acres, Poole, Dorset, where Mr Merna worked
Detective Inspector Richard Dixey, of MCIT, said in 2017: ‘Ryan died as a result of a brutal knife attack by someone he had classed as his friend.
‘His death was tragic and needless and I hope the sentence handed down today will assist Ryan’s friends and family in some small 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 Harbour and is also a stone’s throw from the millionaire’s 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 £2m in 2002.
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