Double inquest into Sherwood Avenue deaths
PUBLISHED: 13:02 17 December 2010 | UPDATED: 14:40 17 December 2010
© MASONS NEWS SERVICE / SWNS.COM
A TEENAGER who turned a knife on the neighbour stabbing his mother in a bid to save her life was told by a coroner that he did “everything right” at an inquest into both deaths this week.
Sandra Crawford, 53, of Sherwood Avenue, died in hospital eight days after being stabbed on Friday, April 30, by her psychotic 46-year-old neighbour Jonathan London who was subsequently killed in a struggle with her son James Killen, who was 18 at the time.
Hatfield Coroners’ Court heard on Tuesday that James had been upstairs getting ready for school at around 8.30am when he heard his mum, an air crew manager, screaming at someone to get out of their house and rushed downstairs to find Mr London – who was suffering from a serious mental illness – lying on top of her.
In a statement given to police following the attack, he said: “I saw the man then start to punch her and say ‘die, die, die.’ I jumped on the man’s back and tried to stop him assaulting my mum and punched him in the head a few times.
“I then realised he had a knife. I’m pretty sure I saw him sort of stab my mum with the knife. He wouldn’t let go of it so I tried to divert the knife away from us and ended up pushing it towards him and it went into his chest.
“He continued towards my mum and with another knife I had got I picked it up and stabbed him. I stabbed him a few times but he kept on going at my mum and wouldn’t get off her, she was in real danger. He rolled over and looked at the knife and then at me and I thought he was going to attack me then and I stabbed him again.”
Mrs Crawford struggled onto the front lawn of the house and James, a Sandringham School pupil, ran upstairs to call an ambulance on his mobile phone and shouted to passers-by to get help.
One of them was Michael Tibble who was running along the road when he heard James calling for help and saw Ms Crawford lying in a pool of blood in the front garden.
He shouted to another woman walking past the scene to call an ambulance but she covered her children’s eyes and walked away without helping, so Mr Tibble frantically started banging on the doors of neighbouring houses to raise the alarm.
He then ran home to get his wife who was a trained midwife and nurse and on his return he found James, who was “totally hysterical”, crouching over his mum giving her CPR. It was only after paramedics arrived that he realised his son used to walk to school with James.
Clare Clift, the neighbour who had answered Mr Tibble’s calls for help, took James into her house. He tried to explain what had happened to police before he was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder. He was later released and never charged.
Ms Crawford was air lifted to Addenbrookes Hospital and, although she was resuscitated and underwent surgery, she never regained consciousness and died on May 8. Pathologist Dr Nathaniel Cary told the inquest she had sustained numerous stab wounds including several to her neck and chest.
Mr London had 16 stab wounds with one puncturing the left lung, causing his death. But Mr Cary explained that it was “entirely plausible” that he could have continued to move around despite his injuries as none of them would have caused a rapid collapse.
Det Insp Jon Arthur from the Major Crime Unit said forensic investigations at the scene backed up what James had told police. No motive was found other than a minor dispute over a broken fence many years ago.
Herts coroner Edward Thomas recorded that Mr London died lawfully as James had been acting in self-defence.
He delivered a narrative verdict on Ms Crawford’s death, saying that she was killed by stab wounds to her neck and chest by a person suffering from severe mental illness.
Mr Thomas told James: “I have tried to think of how I would have thought if it was me when I was your age and it was my mum, but I couldn’t imagine what it must be like for you. I felt what you did was to try and save your mum’s life.
“You tried first of all with your fists and after that you then decided that there was nothing else you could do other than to take out a knife on the other person, who was much bigger than you.
“You, and also Michael and Clare, did everything right to try and save your mum’s life and I’m really sad that you weren’t able to. But I want to assure you that you did everything right.”