Mother blasts NHS after schizophrenic son killed his father after being released by MISTAKE6 min read

Jonathan MacMillan, 28, (pictured) killed his father at home in Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria in June 2019

Jonathan MacMillan, 28, (pictured) killed his father at home in Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria in June 2019

A mother has criticised NHS mental health services after her schizophrenic son killed his father days after being mistakenly released from hospital.

Glenys Hird spoke out after a judge called for a ‘full inquiry’ into the ‘serious failing’ which left Jonathan MacMillan free to attack his father John.

MacMillan, 28, admitted manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility in a court appearance last month.

It has since emerged he had been treated at the Cygnet private hospital in Maidstone, Kent – 350 miles from his home in Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria.

He had been placed there shortly before the attack in June as it was the nearest mental health bed available.

Mrs Hird, 53, said the hospital let out MacMillan a month early after an administrative blunder and refused to listen to the concerns of his mental health worker or his terrified parents back in Barrow.

Four days after arriving home, he attacked Mr MacMillan, 70, who he allegedly believed had been possessed by Satan, by slashing his throat.

The taxi driver, who was divorced from Mrs Hird, was found by her with serious chest and neck injuries before being pronounced dead at the scene.

Glenys Hird (alongside Jonathan as a child) has since spoken out after a judge called for a 'full inquiry' into the 'serious failing' which left Jonathan free to attack his father

Glenys Hird (alongside Jonathan as a child) has since spoken out after a judge called for a ‘full inquiry’ into the ‘serious failing’ which left Jonathan free to attack his father

Yesterday she was in tears as she told how her ex-husband had died needlessly and her only son had been ‘badly let down’ by mental health services.

Mrs Hird, a health and safety adviser, said: ‘I am angry. Absolutely. What’s happened is horrendous, it beggars belief. There was a catalogue of missed chances, opportunities were missed at every step.

‘All of this could have all been avoided if Jonathan’s care had been handled differently and we had been listened to.

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‘I’ve lost my son and John is dead. Although we had been divorced for more than 20 years, we saw each other regularly. 

‘He was a good friend and we collaborated a great deal in trying to deal with Jonathan’s problems. Jonathan loved his dad and his dad worshipped him.’

Mrs Hird said her son was a ‘bright and intelligent’ boy who excelled at athletics and did well at school.

John MacMillan, 70, (pictured) was found with serious chest and neck injuries before being pronounced dead at the scene

John MacMillan, 70, (pictured) was found with serious chest and neck injuries before being pronounced dead at the scene

But after going to sixth form college, he started going off the rails. His parents initially put his problems down to being a teenager, smoking cannabis and hanging around with the wrong crowd.

The problems persisted and by his mid-20s, Mrs Hird realised her son, who by then had started hearing voices, having delusions, talking in different accents and suffering paranoia, was seriously ill.

But each time she persuaded him to go to the doctor or see a mental health professional, MacMillan convinced them he was fine. She added: ‘He was bright and articulate and for years he kept his illness hidden well.

‘Apparently, half of all schizophrenics have no realisation they are ill. Jonathan had no insight into his illness and it was difficult for us to get care for him. But his behaviour could be very frightening. I was worried he would kill himself or someone else.’

From October 2017 to March 2018, MacMillan spent six months in jail for assault and possession of a bladed article after running amok with a knife in Barrow.

Mrs Hird thought her son would finally receive help. But even though he spent time on the hospital wing of HMP Preston, he was freed without treatment and his behaviour became more bizarre.

In desperation and fearing for their own safety, Mrs Hird and Mr MacMillan had their son sectioned under the Mental Health Act.

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In December last year, he was given a bed in an NHS mental health unit at Furness Hospital, Barrow, and started receiving medication. 

But in May he absconded and when he was found eight days later his bed had been given to another patient.

Timeline of family tragedy 

October 2017 – March 2018 Jonathan MacMillan spends six months in jail after running amok with a knife

December 2018 Given a bed at a specialist NHS mental health unit in Barrow

May 2019 MacMillan absconds for eight days and loses bed to another patient

May 2019 Moved to the Cygnet Hospital in Kent, 350 miles from his home

June 14 2019 MacMillan is cleared for release after a clerical error meant his review came a month early

June 18 2019 He kills his 70-year-old father John

July 14 2019 The day his sectioning should have been reviewed by hospital

November 2019 MacMillan in court to admit manslaughter on grounds of diminished responsibility 

Medics said the nearest suitable bed was at the Cygnet, a new 65-bed private hospital used by the NHS. Mrs Hird said her son spent two-and-a-half weeks there but no one contacted his parents.

A review of MacMillan’s sectioning was due on July 14 but was held on June 14 after a clerical error. Despite opposition from his parents and care worker in Barrow, a psychiatrist at the hospital cleared him for release. He arrived at Mrs Hird’s home at 3.30am the next day after travelling through the night in a hospital taxi.

She added: ‘They didn’t speak to anyone to get his history before he was released. They doubled his medication then withdrew other drugs he had been on. That’s just not common sense.

‘When we knew he was being discharged, John and I were terrified. We didn’t have the opportunity to express our concerns. It was a done deal. 

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‘His care worker [in Barrow] said she was alerting the police as she felt it was an unsafe release. She managed to get through to the psychiatrist in Kent but apparently he wasn’t interested. 

‘I don’t think it’s about cuts, it doesn’t take any money to make a phone call, it was basic failings. Lack of communication. Failure to get a back history.’

On the day of the attack, June 18, Mrs Hird went to check on MacMillan after work. She could see her ex-husband’s car outside and heard shouting.

As she went inside, she saw Mr MacMillan lying at the bottom of the stairs with his throat slashed.

Mrs Hird said: ‘We want a full investigation and for people to learn from their mistakes.

‘There was a myriad of failings, the biggest in Kent. But I’ve had no contact from the hospital, no apology, nothing.

‘They say lessons will be learned but they never do, you see this time and again. I feel we were all badly let down.’

At the hearing at Preston Crown Court, Judge Mark Brown said there had been a ‘serious failing’ by Cygnet and the ‘appalling state of affairs requires a full inquiry’.

MacMillan is being treated for paranoid schizophrenia at a secure unit in Lancashire and will be sentenced tomorrow.

The prosecution has accepted his plea of not guilty to murder.

Alan Hooper, a partner advocate for the Zito Partnership mental health charity, said: ‘This poor mother has been left devastated.

‘It is a sad indictment on the under-funded, over-stretched state of mental health services.’

North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust, which looks after mental health patients in Barrow, said it was unable to comment. Cygnet said it would ‘not be appropriate’ to comment while the case was continuing.