Schizophrenic who killed three pensioners found not guilty of murder

Former public schoolboy, 28, who bludgeoned three pensioners to death with a hammer and shovel hours after being released from custody is cleared of murder by reason of insanity

  • Alexander Lewis-Ranwell killed three pensioners while on bail for a saw attack 
  • Lewis-Ranwell bludgeoned one to death with hammer and others with spade
  • Court heard that he believed he was tackling a paedophile ring when he struck
  • He admitted the killings but pleaded not guilty to murder on basis of insanity  

Paranoid schizophrenic Alexander Lewis-Ranwell, 28, who brutally killed three pensioners hours apart has been found not guilty of three charges of murder by reason of insanity by a jury at Exeter Crown Court. 

The former public schoolboy killed Anthony Payne, 80, and 84-year-old twin brothers, Roger and Dick Carter, in February. He admitted the killings but pleaded not guilty to murder on the basis of insanity.

His trial heard that the defendant was operating under the mistaken delusion he was busting a paedophile ring.

Mr Lewis-Ranwell is pictured the day before the killings, when he was arrested for attacking a man with a saw. A doctor recommended he be assessed for mental health issues but this did not happen 

The court heard that Lewis-Ranwell (left) was under the delusion he was uncovering a paedophile ring when he killed Anthony Payne, 80 (right). Before entering the property, Lewis-Ranwell appeared to stop and read a sign on its front door

The Carter twins’ nephew Jonathan Carter said they felt ‘no hatred’ towards Mr Lewis-Ranwell even though he robbed them of their happy retirement.

He said their murders have been ‘devastating’ and caused them in ‘total disbelief, bewilderment and sadness’.

Mrs Justice May told the jury on Friday that it had been a ‘disturbing case to hear on so many levels, three dead and two badly injured’ by somebody with gross psychiatric illness who was not criminally responsible.

She said he will be cared for in Broadmoor hospital under a restriction order until agencies can be absolutely confident that he can be released into the community.

Mr Lewis-Ranwell bludgeoned one victim to death with hammer and the others with a spade. 

He had been arrested the day before for the killings for an attack involving a saw but was released on police bail without a mental health assessment that morning.

One of Lewis-Ranwell’s neighbours and family friends said that he was a keen polo player who attended the £30,000-a-year West Buckland boarding school. 

Until last year he was living in Barnstaple and was believed to have a 64-year-old girlfriend who he lived with for a long period before moving out and heading to Exeter, which is around an hour away.

The source said: ‘He was one of the nicest children you could ever meet. He is so polite and kind and was good at school. He was brilliant at polo. He wanted to play so his dad bought him horses.’

Lewis-Ranwell was an avid polo player and ex public schoolboy who attended the prestigious £30,000-a-year West Buckland boarding school

Mr Payne and twin victims Dick and Roger Carter, 84, were all reclusive bachelors. The ambulance service alerted police to Mr Payne’s body at his terrace house in Bonhay Road at about 3pm on February 11.

And at 1pm the following day, officers went to the Carter brothers’ detached home in Cowick Lane after their bodies had been found. Police arrested the suspect hours later.  

Mr Lewis-Ranwell had been detained the previous day after attacking on farmer John Ellis with a four-foot saw.

The court was told that a doctor had seen him during his second arrest detention who recommended that the 28-year-old should be seen by a mental health nurse before he was released on police bail. That did not happen. 

The scene in Cowick Lane, Exeter today, where the bodies of twins Dick and Roger Carter, aged 84, were discovered Tuesday lunchtime

Residents have been leaving flowers at the house of the Carter brothers in Cowick lane, Exeter today

While in custody there, the defendant had told officers he had twice been sectioned under the Mental Health Act for psychotic mental health issues.

He had also threatened to punch his solicitor and was abusive to his mother in a phone call – and his mother later called the officer in the case to say she had ‘grave concerns should he be released’.

A police inspector said after his second detention which lasted 24 hours that Lewis-Ranwell ‘presents a serious risk to the public if released’.

At one point he tried to grab a police officer’s Taser from its holster as he where his bizarre behaviour was abusive and aggressive.

But by 9.30am on Sunday February 10th he was released and made his way the 50 miles from Barnstaple to Exeter where he killed the three victims. 

He wandered from Exeter’s main railway station a short distance to the rundown home of Tony Payne who had stuck a sign on his front door saying that he was an old man looking for alternative accommodation.

He went in to the house and followed Mr Payne to his bedroom where he bludgeoned him to death with a hammer that was in the property.

He left by a back door and walked around Exeter, eventually coming to the Carters’ dilapidated detached house. One of the twins, thought to be Dick along with his pet Boxer dog, ushered Lewis-Ranwell away when he came in through wooden front gates.

But the defendant walked around the back and over a garden fence and entered the house and using a spade from their garden, he bludgeoned both twins.

Dick was found dead on the kitchen floor, his twin on the staircase, and Lewis-Ranwell walked off after killing both in less than ten minutes. He then wandered off to local shops and pubs to buy chocolate, crisps and soft drinks before returning to pubs in Exeter – and sleeping rough by the old castle.

At 5am the next morning he attacked a worker at a nearby hotel as he demanded breakfast. Police were called and Tasered and restrained him. He was eventually sent to a local psychiatric unit where he was held.

The same day Mr Payne’s body was discovered. CCTV from the scene linked the murder to Lewis-Ranwell.

The next day the twins’ bodies were discovered and CCTV again linked him to all three murders that left elderly people in the city terrified.

Lewis-Ranwell denied all three murders on the grounds of insanity. During an eight day trial the prosecution and defence agreed that Lewis-Ranwell had killed all three men but did not agree on what his mental state was.

The jury heard from different psychiatrists – one said the paranoid schizophrenic was suffering from ‘a quest delusion’ at the time, and that he was doing something morally right when he killed them.

Another said he was a ‘frightened man living in a nightmarish world’ – a ‘dream like world’ where objects and people he encountered were all part of a delusion.

Lewis-Ranwell told one of the psychiatrists that he had been abused as a child and he believed his victims were ‘keeping people prisoner’ in bunkers at their homes.

He told shrink that he did not intend to commit murder but it was ‘necessary because there was someone at risk’.

Prosecutor Richard Smith QC had told the jury that Lewis-Ranwell suffered with one delusion that he was ‘uncovering a long standing paedophile ring which was holding and abusing children’ – even though the victims were not involved in any such things.

Lewis-Ranwell was privately educated at West Buckland School in North Devon where he attained 11 GCSEs including seven grade As.

But he dropped out of sixth form and for the next ten years worked in casual jobs as a scaffolder, fence builder, and skiing in France. He had been smoking cannabis since he was 18 and had also taken cocaine, Ecstasy and magic mushrooms.

He had relationships with several women – one in her 60s – but in 2016 he was sectioned after suffering a psychotic episode. At the time of the killings, he was ‘single, homeless and broke’ and living on a campsite in Croyde, North Devon. His mental health deteriorated and he was not medicated.



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