Insane killers urgently need closer monitoring, a grieving father says

The grave of Brent Jason Hawkins in Waikanae Cemetery.

The grave of Brent Jason Hawkins in Waikanae Cemetery.

Kapiti Coast pensioner Arnold Hawkins has effectively lost his whole family.

His mentally-ill youngest son killed his middle son in 2002 and his eldest died in a motorcycle crash in 1995. His only daughter has been disabled since infancy from meningitis and his wife died of renal failure in 1989.

Arnold Hawkins refuses to blame anyone, but he raises serious questions about the mental health system after son Richard, a paranoid schizophrenic, killed his own brother and Arnold's remaining son, Jason, in May 2002. Last year, he attacked someone else only days after desperately seeking help.

Acquitted of murder on insanity grounds after the 2002 killing, Richard was made a special patient at Capital & Coast District Health Board's Purehurehu secure inpatient unit at Porirua.

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After some years, he was allowed to live with his father in the community, and a degree of normality appeared to return, but that was all turned on its head when Richard again turned to violence. This time, he slashed a stranger's face at Waikanae train station last May.

On March 3 this year, Richard, now 42, was found not guilty by reason of insanity of wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm. The court will decide on April 7 whether to make him a special patient again. He has been back in Purehurehu since May last year.

His father, Arnold, has revealed his son had been living on the streets in Wellington and sought help from mental health services only two days before the Waikanae stabbing, but was turned away.

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Arnold says his son was living with him when he killed his brother in 2002. "At the time, his behaviour was like turning a light switch on or off. I'd come home from work, and find dinner all cooked, and he'd say 'hi dad', or another time, he'd be marching out the door when I came home."

He had been self-managing his anti-psychotic medications, but stopped taking them months before Jason's death.

"I had a call from the doctor once to say Richard hasn't picked his medication up, but nothing else after that.

"He never had a regular social worker, or someone that came to check up on him."

Once he left Purehurehu, he was closely monitored at first, but eventually discharged to his GP's care.

"It gets very wearying, when you have a grown man and you have to be a caregiver to them, and when there's a reluctance for the caring because 'I'm grown up'," Arnold says.

Arnold says his son also tried to contact mental health services in Palmerston North not long before the train station slashing "but it was too late, he was all over the place, you can't just take a pill and wind it in."

He recalls a particular phone call with Richard in May last year. "He was in Wellington and he was on the street. He wouldn't come here and stay in the house.

"I said, 'Well, whatever you can do, get a train fare and go up to the open ward in Porirua and see them."

Richard followed his father's advice, but mental health services turned him away. 

Arnold understands it was only two days before he slashed the stranger at Waikanae station, which he believes was his son's cry for help.

However, he is reluctant to criticise mental health services "because blame doesn't help anything".

"I've been assured that changes have been made, so that that won't occur again," he says of his son being refused treatment.

Arnold also forgives Richard for killing Jason. "Well, you have to. It's not really a case of forgiveness, it's a case of getting on with life."

His calls for better mental health care are echoed by the partner of Jason when he was killed.

"To know he has done it again, it makes me so angry. I'm furious at everyone who has failed him, who have failed the community - people who aren't doing their jobs properly," Jasmine Hampton says.

Brent Jason Hawkins, known as Jason, was killed in 2002 when he was stabbed by his brother Richard Hawkins.

While those convicted of murder were released from jail many years later on strict parole conditions for life, she believes those acquitted on insanity grounds need similar monitoring once out of secure care in psychiatric hospitals. 

"I'm not saying they should be locked away forever in a psychiatric hospital, but they need close monitoring and to make sure they are taking their drugs."

The Waikanae station victim's father, who asked for anonymity, said his son and family believed mental health services had failed to keep the community safe, but he blamed lack of resourcing.

"There's a certain disappointment we feel that the mental health system is inadequately resourced.

"I think the mental health service is over-stressed - there is a tsunami of these people and the mental health service is doing the best they can."

He says his son simply wants Hawkins to get the help he needs.

"Obviously this guy didn't get the help, care and monitoring he needed. He slipped through the cracks."

The district health board and MidCentral District Health Board are now reviewing how they move clients between the two DHBs.

"I can assure the public that our staff are constantly considering the safety of our clients and the community they are a part of," said Nigel Fairley, the DHB's general manager of mental health, addiction, intellectual and disability services.






 - Stuff

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