Paranoid attacker stabbed shop worker so he could go back to mental hospital

David Clarke
David Clarke

A man who was unhappy about being sent home from a mental hospital and decided to stab a young man so he could be sent back, was last night starting a 15 year jail sentence.

Paranoid David Clarke planned his vicious crime while still an informal in-patient, went out and bought a knife and then launched his ferocious attack on a shop assistant he asked to help him.

A judge heard that he plunged the knife into the 25-year-old’s neck with such force that the victim is still in hospital more than a year later.

Two of his arteries were severed and and he suffered a paralysing stroke following the devastating random attack.

The ferocious attack left the 25-year-old victim in a medically induced coma, and he is expected to have to spend a further two months in hospital.

The 64 year old appeared before a judge via a video link from prison where he was seen using a crutch to support himself.

His long greying beard and hair looked unkempt and he remained silent as he was told he would be sentenced to 15 years behind bars with a five year extension to ber served on parole following the conviction of inflicting grievous bodily harm with intent.

He was acquitted of one count of attempted murder, but a jury at Reading Crown Court convicted him of GBH with intent when he stabbed shop assistant Rushatharan Asok on September 8 last year.

Judge Johanna Cutts heard that at the time of the attack Clarke had been an informal patient at a mental health facility but was not sectioned under the Mental Health Act and was free to come and go as he pleased.

He had been receiving treatment at the Whiteleaf Centre in Aylesbury for a personality disorder and paranoid thoughts.

Clarke was due for release the week after the attack, something which had led him to believe he needed to commit another crime in order to go back into the care of authorities.

It was because of this that on September 8 last year in Aylesbury town centre Clarke went into a hardware shop, bought a kitchen knife and plunged it into a defenceless convenience shop worker’s neck as he bent down to help the elderly man.

Alan Blake, prosecuting said: “Clarke had felt so aggrieved about the proposal of his discharge (from the psychiatric hospital) that he went into a shop in the town centre and bought a kitchen knife.

“He returned to a convenience store he had earlier been to where he saw a shop assistant reaching down to get something from a bottom shelf.

“He entered the store and seeing that the shop assistant was now alone, asked Mr Asok to get some beers from the bottom shelf. As Mr Asok bent down Clarke plunged the knife into his neck and left the shop worker alone in the store. Mr Asok removed the knife from his own neck which caused a massive bleed.

“Members of the public administered first aid to assist the man before he was rushed to Stoke Mandeville Hospital.

“He had emergency surgery and was put into a medically induced coma. The victim had a significant degree of recovery but he suffered a clot which caused a stroke that is causing on-going and probably life-changing injuries.

“There is a degree of premeditation to this offence, for example that he had earlier visited the convenience shop when someone else had been present in the shop and then returned some hours later, having bought the weapon.

“There is also the on-going effect on the victim who had been working alone and providing a service to the public at the time of the attack.

“Mr Asok had wanted to attend today’s sentencing but unfortunately experienced strong feelings of nauseousness on the way over here and so he and those with him were forced to return to hospital.”

Clarke had been convicted 20 times for 32 offences since 1964 including two actual bodily harm convictions in 1970 and 1989. In 1998 he was also convicted of affray in Aylesbury Crown Court, alongside a possession of a firearm offence.

Upon being arrested for the vicious stabbing Clarke initially claimed that he had suffered from amnesia and could not remember the incident at all. He later admitted that he had a clear memory of the stabbing.

After being rushed to Stoke Mandeville Hospital in Aylesbury, for emergency surgery, Mr Asok was transferred to the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford.

The knife had grazed the bones of his spine, just missing his spinal cord, and severed both the carotid artery and the jugular vein which carry blood to and from the brain.

After undergoing emergency surgery to restore blood flow to the brain, a stray clot caused him to suffer a stroke, damaging the right side of his body and forcing medics to put him into a coma.

It took two months of recovery for Mr Asok to be fit enough to speak to police from a day room in hospital, where the young man still looked pained and weak, answering questions in a muted whisper.

Darren Samat, defending Clarke said: “Mr Clarke has shown remorse and is extremely upset about his assault on Mr Asok.

“It clearly was a serious offence with catastrophic long lasting effects.

“It was clear his paranoia was based in reality but he gave slightly too much prominence to being fearful about something he perceived that would try to kill him.

“In the past he has sought perceived solace in the authority’s arms and couldn’t bear the thought of being on his own.

“As well as his mental health issues he has significant physical health issues, as the court would have seen when he was unsteady while giving evidence.

“He is a very frightened man, he does not socialise in prison, he stays in solitary confinement in fear that if he leaves his cell another prisoner will ‘get him’ as he is at the hands of his paranoia.

“Although he has a history of offending he does not show a pattern of violent offences and he has become a man who is institutionalised and seeks solace from authorities to prevent his paranoia.”

Sentencing the 64-year-old man, Judge Cutts said: “You went into that hardware shop to buy the knife - you had no intention of cooking with it - and went to the shop where the 25-year-old man had been alone.

“You got him to reach down and with your intention clear, you plunged the knife into his back and left him alone in the store.

“From the injuries you inflicted, Mr Asok will now experience less sensory awareness for the rest of his life. His vision will be affected and he will probably never be able to drive. His cognitive ability will be impaired for the rest of his life.

“He spent one year in hospital where he remains today as a patient, who in his impact statement said ‘I do not know when I will feel happy again, I did nothing to deserve any of this.’

“You claimed you had amnesia of the incident then admitted that this was false and that you had a good recollection of what happened on September 8.

“You said you heard voices in you head but psychiatric tests concluded that these were not connected to any mental health illness and that your paranoia was general to your lifestyle and fear that your life was in danger if you were made homeless again.

“You are wholly culpable for what you did and you will be imprisoned for the savage attack on a member of the public.

“You have signs of social psychopathic personality disorder and although you were acquitted of intending to kill Mr Asok your crime is a serious one with long lasting serious injuries.

“I am sentencing you to 15 years in prison with a five year extension.

“I wish Mr Asok will one day be able to find happiness and peace.”

Clarke remained unemotional throughout the sentencing, where he was told he would spend at least 10 of the 15 years behind bars. Following the 15 year sentence he will spend a further five years on parole and could face being sent back to prison if he commits any further crimes during that period.

A statement issued by Mr Asok’s family after the sentencing said: “We would like to thank the doctors who saved our son’s life. We will be forever grateful to them.

“Rushatharan came to England to study and to make a better life for himself. His life has now been changed forever and he will always need to be cared for.

“It is good to know the man who did this cannot hurt anyone else, but we get no satisfaction from the court result. This will affect our family for the rest of our lives.”

Shop owner Seelan Ulaganathan, said: “Even if he makes a full recovery he will still have lost a year of his life, it is so sad.

“His parents are still here, but they also have two children in Sri Lanka, who have missed that time with them.

“If it wasn’t for the customers who helped Rushatharan that day he wouldn’t be here, other people would have run away, but they stayed and helped and it saved his life. We would all like to thank them.”