Axeman's 'murderous' attack on policeman

PUBLISHED: 08:55 19 March 2013

A police road block at the entrance to Stockland following the 'murderous' axe attack on an officer.  Photo by Chris Carson

A police road block at the entrance to Stockland following the 'murderous' axe attack on an officer. Photo by Chris Carson

Archant

Membury man sent to mental hospital after his blade came within 12 inches of officer's head

A mad axeman has been sent to a mental hospital for a ‘murderous’ attack in which his blade came within inches of a policeman’s head.

Simon Birks was reported to police by a deer stalker who escaped by reversing away from his swinging axe in an early morning confrontation in a country lane near Stockland.

Police constable Daryl Drew was called to the scene and was lucky to escape unhurt as Birks swung the axe into his car five times.

The first blow shattered the laminated windscreen and the blade of the axe came within 12 inches of the officer’s head. The second demolished the rest of the windscreen and forced him to dodge out of the way.

The last three hit the bodywork of the police car as PC Drew got it into gear and sped away, Exeter Crown Court was told.

Birks, of Sportley, Membury, admitted attempting to cause grievous bodily harm to PC Drew in the incident on April 12 last year.

He was ordered to be detained indefinitely at the Langdon Hospital, Dawlish, after Judge Phillip Wassall was told that two psychiatrists rated him as a danger to the public.

The order means he cannot be released without the consent of the Secretary of State for Justice and would not be allowed to return to his home without consultation with fellow villagers.

The judge told him: ”This is a sad case in which your life was changed fundamentally by a road accident in which you received serious head injuries many years ago.

“You have developed a mental condition as a result and this offence happened when you were in a dangerous psychotic state.

“You struck two blows at the windscreen with an axe which came equally close to the officer and then three more blows at the car before he could drive off.

“Had he stalled the engine I have no doubt this incident would have ended in tragedy or certainly in really serious injury. It could properly be described as a murderous attack on the officer.”

Terry Holder, prosecuting, said Birks had been suffering delusions before the attack in which he believed his house was being targeted by thieves and his cat had been poisoned.

He wrecked the cottage with the axe and a sledge hammer before setting out with the axe at dawn to walk to Honiton police station to report the supposed intruders. In reality there had been no burglars and his cat was found safe and well by police.

Birks was seen by two men on an early morning deer stalking trip who stopped to ask about his welfare after seeing him standing beside the road with an axe. His response was to rush at the car and swing the weapon, which missed as the driver reversed away.

Mr Holder said PC Drew was attacked at Stockland when he went to investigate. He feared for his life as the axe was embedded in the windscreen 12 inches from his head.

Lee Bremridge, defending, said reports from two doctors concluded Birks was suffering a schizo-affected disorder with symptoms of paranoia and florid psychotic episodes.

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