Honiton man who fatally stabbed Jehovah’s Witness given hospital order

PUBLISHED: 16:07 09 February 2018 | UPDATED: 11:28 12 February 2018

mhh Keith Beviss at Exeter Magistrates court June 8 2017. Picture: Elizabeth Cook

mhh Keith Beviss at Exeter Magistrates court June 8 2017. Picture: Elizabeth Cook

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Keith Beviss went to the hall in Honiton armed with a knife and attacked a complete stranger who happened to be carrying out electrical work there.

Hospital order: Keith Beviss.Hospital order: Keith Beviss.

A paranoid man who believed he was being persecuted by Jehovah’s Witnesses killed a member of the group in a random attack at a Kingdom Hall.

Keith Beviss went to the hall in Honiton armed with a knife and attacked a complete stranger who happened to be carrying out electrical work there.

Victim Philip Ryan, aged 55, ran a business in Westward Ho!, North Devon, but was a Jehovah’s Witness and had travelled to Honiton to carry out the job.

He was killed by four stab wounds including one to the heart and two to the throat.

The attack was so violent the knife broke and Beviss left its blade lodged in Mr Ryan’s neck.

The killing was the result of Beviss’s totally false belief the Jehovah’s Witnesses were spying on him and spreading false rumours about his sex life on the internet.

He was convinced the government and ‘the system’ were conspiring against him and thought his GP was part of the plot when he recommended treatment for his paranoid delusions.

Beviss claimed that Christian groups had told him he was wicked, evil and would go to hell and just before the killing he confronted a Jehovah’s Witness elder and told him ‘It’s all satanic’.

He was caught on CCTV as he drove his camper van to a car park near the hall in Honiton and walked to and from it while carrying a white carrier bag.

The bag contained the knife before the attack but was empty when he returned and was found with Mr Ryan’s blood on it.

He handed himself in to police and said: “They have been humiliating me for months. I had to do it. I’m done for but it had to be done.”

He said the Jehovah’s Witnesses had been saying things on the internet about him behaving in a sexually inappropriate way.

Beviss, aged 55, of Woodhayes Drive, Honiton, admitted manslaughter on grounds of diminished responsibility and was made subject of a hospital order by Judge Graham Cottle at Exeter Crown Court.

It means he will be detained at Fromeside Hospital in Bristol until he is deemed to be safe to release by doctors and the Ministry of Justice.

The judge told him: “This was a dreadful attack with a knife and he sustained a number of stab wounds from which he died at the scene.

“You had developed a belief you were being persecuted by Jehovah’s Witnesses. This offence was inextricably linked to your mental disorder. I have to consider the best was to manage the risk you pose.”

Beviss shouted at the judge from the dock and said he wanted to go to jail rather than a hospital.

He said: “Give me 50 years, that way I’ll never come out. I will go on hunger strike. I will die.”

Mr Simon Laws, QC, prosecuting, said Beviss stabbed Mr Ryan to death at the Kingdom Hall in Dowell Street, Honiton, on the afternoon of Tuesday, June 6.

He said: “The medical evidence shows that for some time he had been labouring under a delusion he was being persecuted by the Jehovah’s Witnesses. He was not.

“While in the grip of the delusion he chose physical confrontation. He took a knife to the hall and attacked Mr Ryan.”

He said Mr Ryan’s wife Sandra had made a victim impact statement.

He said: “She described in moving terms how each day the family suffer the pain and anguish of his loss.

“He was shortly to have celebrated 30 years with his wife. She speaks of a remarkable man who was very much loved and admired. He cared deeply for others and was always available to offer help.

“He was a patient, reliable, hard working, totally devoted husband.”

Mr Laws said Beviss had ridden his motorcycle to the hall the Sunday before the killing and revved it up to blow exhaust fumes inside.

On the day of the attack he confronted an elder who was manning a leaflet stall in another part of Honiton before going to the hall and killing Mr Ryan.

He then walked to the police station to hand himself in but it was closed and he used the outside phone to dial 999, confessing to a woman police officer when they arrived.

Psychiatrists Dr Victoria Thom and John Sandford said Beviss was suffering from a delusional disorder at the time which reduced his responsibility for his actions greatly.

Mr Richard Smith, QC, defending, said: “It is clear from the medical evidence that his culpability was very low.”

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