News article

Man given hospital restriction order following deaths of three elderly men in Exeter

Alexander Lewis-Ranwell mugshot.jpg

Family tributes to victims

Following the conclusion of the trial at Exeter Crown Court today, the families of the three victims have paid the following tributes.

The family of Anthony Payne, paid the following tribute: 

“Anthony led a quiet life, troubling no one. He had strong friendships and a family, who cared for him.

“We could not have foreseen the events of the 10th February, 2019 and we are still profoundly shocked.

“We are hoping that the trial gives answers to questions about what happened to these three gentle, kind and caring gentlemen.

“We would also like to thank the Police Family liaison Team for their support, who became involved when we learnt of Anthony’s unexpected death. Their support has continued during the Police investigation of the shocking circumstances of how Anthony died.”


The family of Dick and Roger Carter, paid the following tribute:

The family of 84-year-old twins Dick and Roger Carter, said: “Dick and Roger Carter were born, lived their lives and died at the house in Cowick Lane. They were quiet and kind gentlemen who, before retirement, spent their working lives with the family mushroom business.

“They both loved the outdoors, wildlife and birdwatching. They shared an enthusiasm for walking in both the Southwest and Scotland often in the company of the family’s Boxer dogs.

“This case has focussed on the mental health of the defendant. However, we must not forget the victims of these crimes. Vulnerable elderly gentlemen, who were subjected to vicious, violent, unprovoked assaults which led to their deaths. It has been difficult for family and close friends to comprehend the full horror of the events in early February and their sudden and violent deaths.

“This case will, we are sure, raise questions regarding the care, monitoring and custodial treatment of the mentally ill. We can only hope that in the course of time, lessons learned are put into practice to ensure that there is no repetition of these awful events. 

“Lastly, we would like to thank the Police Family Liaison team for their support over the last 10 months, through what has been a very difficult and painful process for us all.”

Alexander Lewis-Ranwell issued a hospital restriction order

A 28-year-old man has been given a hospital restriction order following the deaths of three men on Sunday 10 February 2019.

Alexander Lewis-Ranwell, from Croyde near Barnstaple, appeared on trial at Exeter Crown Court, where he was found not guilty of murder on grounds of insanity by a jury of eight men and four women.

Her Honour Judge May today, Monday 2 December, subsequently issued a hospital restriction order.

The court heard medical evidence from independent experts who assessed Lewis-Ranwell over many months whilst on remand, who concluded that he was suffering from a severe mental illness at the time of the events in February.

Police were called at 3pm on Monday 11 February after the body of, 80-year-old Anthony Payne was found at his home address in Bonhay Road, Exeter. Police confirmed his death to be suspicious and a murder investigation was launched.

At 1pm on Tuesday 12 February, police were called to a property in Cowick Lane, Exeter after the bodies of 84-year-old twins, Dick and Roger Carter, were located at their home address. Their deaths were also deemed to be suspicious and treated as murder.

The deaths were formally linked and later than day, at around 11.30pm, Alexander Lewis-Ranwell was arrested at Wonford House Hospital, Exeter, on suspicion of murder. He remained in police custody at Heavitree Road Police Station until Friday 15 February, when he was charged with the murders of the three men.

Previously, Lewis-Ranwell was arrested in Combe Martin, North Devon on Friday 8 February and charged with criminal damage and burglary. He was bailed to appear at Barnstaple Magistrates Court on Tuesday 22 February.

He was later arrested in Goodleigh, North Devon on suspicion of causing grievous bodily harm with intent on Saturday 9 February and released on police bail with conditions on Sunday 10 February.

On the morning of Monday 11 February, Lewis-Ranwell was arrested in Exeter City Centre on suspicion of causing grievous bodily harm. Whilst in custody he was sectioned by Approved Mental Health Professionals under Section 2 of the Mental Health Act and taken to The Juniper Ward at Wonford House Hospital, Exeter.

During his time in police custody, officers were continually engaged with mental health services and partner agencies. Health care staff were requested to assess Lewis-Ranwell and during his time in custody, the defendant had a number interactions with five different health care professionals who were involved in providing guidance and professional assessment.

As a result it was agreed that he was fit to be detained and interviewed and confirmed that he did not need a full mental health act assessment.

Head of Major Crime, Detective Superintendent Mike West, said: “We acknowledge the decision made by the jury and the sentence given by the judge. It is a reflection of the unique and complex nature of this case.

“These were unprovoked attacks on three innocent victims and I pay tribute to the men who lost their lives. Antony Payne and Dick & Roger Carter were gentlemen in their 80’s who were killed, by a stranger, in their own homes. Their families, friends and neighbours have supported our investigation team throughout the period since their deaths were reported.

“Our thoughts remain with the families as they continue to come to terms with the tragic events which took place. They also remain with those who were affected by his acts of violence in the days leading up to his arrest.

“During his time in custody, prior to the deaths, the defendant had a number of interactions with five different health care professionals who were involved in providing guidance and professional assessment. As a result it was agreed that he was fit to be detained and interviewed and indeed confirmed that he did not need a full mental health act assessment.

“We fully accept our responsibilities to look after those detained in our custody units, however it is unreasonable to suggest that police officers or staff, in these circumstances, should have over-ridden decisions made by those who are trained, qualified and skilled in health care.

“A trial based on insanity is a rare procedure and the court has heard medical evidence from three independent experts who have assessed Lewis-Ranwell over many months whilst on remand and who, could not come together to a single view but, concluded that he was suffering from a severe mental illness at the time of the events in February. This shows how complex and dynamic this case has been.

“The investigation has been led by officers from the Major Crime Investigation Team, supported by colleagues from across the Force, including partner agencies. In terms of its scale, the team reviewed over 2000 hours of CCTV, recorded over 700 witness statements and undertook six weeks of specialist forensic analysis of the crime scenes.

Superintendent Matt Lawler, Local Policing Commander for Exeter, East and Mid Devon said: “These unprecedented events caused understandable shock, not only for the local community, but throughout the Force area.

For weeks after these awful crimes, we drafted in officers and PCSOs from across the Force, not just for the crime scenes, cordons, and investigation, but to also provide additional support to those affected. The response from residents in Cowick Lane and Bonhay Road was one of genuine care for one another, and I would like to thank local residents for their patience and understanding.

“An important part of the wider partnership response were visits to homes where we felt people, particularly the elderly, might appreciate additional reassurance. We came together with the Community Safety Partnership, Exeter City Council Housing Department, Social Services, and the Fire Service to share information, and then visited 50 addresses to check on the occupants, making a number of referrals to support services as a result.

“We have been conscious of the longer term impacts resulting from this case. We have invested in a PCSO who is now dedicated to engaging with the elderly across the city. The wider neighbourhood policing team continue, some nine months later, to work closely with our hugely supportive City and County Councillors, together with voluntary partners such as church groups and Age UK, to continue that support.

“Whilst affected neighbours and our wider elderly community may feel vulnerable at times, they have also shown us how remarkably resilient they can be. We will continue to have an increased visible police presence across the city in the coming weeks to provide reassurance and support.”


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