Supermarket Incident: Woman Claims She Was Driven to Violence by Psychotic Episode

PENYGRAIG, Wales — In a tragic event that has illuminated the gaps in mental health care and crisis intervention, Zara Radcliffe, a woman diagnosed with schizophrenia, was involved in a lethal attack at a local supermarket in 2020, resulting in the death of an 88-year-old man and injuries to three others. The incident has sparked an inquest into the effectiveness of mental health support systems.

On May 5, 2020, Radcliffe targeted shoppers at a Co-op store, where she fatally attacked John Rees. Statements made during the investigation revealed that Radcliffe had forewarned police about her potential for violence on the day of the attack. This distressing confession underscored the severity of her mental state at the time.

The inquest heard testimony regarding several calls made by Radcliffe’s father, Wayne, to the crisis mental health team on the day of the attack. He expressed urgent concerns about his daughter’s well-being, emphasizing that she might not have been taking her prescribed medication and could be using illicit substances again. Despite these calls, the response from the mental health services appeared inadequate.

Further complicating Radcliffe’s care, Laura Morse, Radcliffe’s care coordinator, admitted to the court that she had hesitated to directly engage with Wayne due to warnings about his aggressiveness. Nonetheless, she felt compelled to visit Radcliffe upon reviewing the information provided by her father.

The profound tragedy of the situation was highlighted when, two hours after Radcliffe had locked herself at home and contacted the police about a “domestic incident,” officers were called to the scene of the assault. PC Jack Cotton, who had initially taken Radcliffe’s call, noted she did not appear intoxicated or threaten violence during the call.

Following her arrest at the scene, Radcliffe was taken to the custody at Merthyr Tydfil police station, where she shockingly admitted to having anticipated the murder that day, demonstrating a horrifying premeditation of her actions.

The investigation into her care revealed that after being discharged from Royal Glamorgan Hospital in February 2021, Radcliffe had minimal contact with mental health professionals. Over the subsequent ten weeks, she met with community mental health staff just twice, raising serious concerns about the post-hospitalization care she received.

Dr. Gaynor Jones, a consultant psychiatrist who assessed Radcliffe post-arrest, characterized her as “clearly psychotic,” driven by delusions that compelled her to attacker in order to “be safe and go to prison.”

As a result of these findings, Radcliffe was remanded to Rampton high-security hospital. In October 2020, she was detained indefinitely under a hospital order, her fate sealed by both her actions and the acknowledged failures in her mental health support.

This case serves as a stark reminder of the critical need for effective mental health care and robust support systems, especially for individuals showing clear signs of severe psychiatric distress. The death of John Rees and the violence that ensued reflect the dire consequences of systemic lapses in mental health intervention and crisis management.