Son deemed not psychotic year before beating father to death

Son, 38, who beat his retired doctor father, 68, to death after escaping from hospital was not psychotic and ‘presented as someone who would be happy living in a teepee in west Wales’ when assessed in 2021, mental health expert tells inquest

  • Lung expert Dr Kim Harrison, 68, died after he was attacked by his son Daniel
  • A doctor who visited Daniel a year before the attack said he was not psychotic

A son who beat his father to death after escaping from hospital was not psychotic, a mental health expert has told an inquest into his death. 

Lung expert Dr Kim Harrison, 68, died after he was punched, kicked, stamped on and beaten with a broom handle by son Daniel Harrison, 38, in March 2022 after he fled from doctors who had sectioned him under the mental health act. 

Day two of the inquest into Dr Harrison’s death heard that in January 2021 Will Johnston, an approved mental health professional or ‘Amhp’, made a number of visits to Daniel Harrison to assess him.

Mr Johnston’s conclusion from the visits was that there was ‘no overt evidence’ of any psychosis, and that Harrison was leading a ‘more alternative lifestyle’ than perhaps his parents had wished for him. 

Giving evidence to the coroner Mr Johnston at Swansea’s Guildhall courtroom said Harrison ‘had presented stereotypically as someone who would be quite happy living in a teepee in west Wales’. 

He added that had come across in their conversations as someone who was ‘gentle, intelligent and considerate’ and who was ‘very passionate about his career and the environment’.

Daniel Harrison, 38, beat his retired father Dr Kim Harrison, 68, to death after escaping his psychiatric hospital

Dr Harrison died after he was punched, kicked, stamped on and beaten with a broom handle by his son after he fled from doctors at the the Neath Port Talbot Hospital (pictured) in Wales

The inquest heard that Daniel Harrison had a history of mental health issues going back as far as 2007, and for a prolonged period was on anti-psychotic medication and was engaging with mental health professionals. 

However, from 2017 his mental health began to deteriorate and he started to suffer with bouts of paranoia, delusions, auditory hallucinations, and ‘thought broadcasting’ where he believed other people could hear his thoughts. 

Over this time his family became increasingly concerned about his behaviour and welfare.

By late 2020 Harrison – who was a talented joiner and bespoke furniture maker – was living in his rented workshop on a farm, and his appearance was described as ‘dishevelled’ and it seemed he was not looking after his personal hygiene.

The court heard he was also becoming paranoid about his parents and was calling them ‘fascists’ and making allegations about them being involved in a Covid conspiracy. 

Increasingly alarmed at his behaviour Mr and Mrs Harrison continued to try to get a mental health assessment for their son.

After visiting Daniel, the court heard that Dr Johnston formed the opinion that Harrison was living the way he was having made a ‘capacitated free choice’

He concluded there were no grounds for seeking an application to detain him under the Mental Health Act. 

The witness said he had spoken to Dr Kim Harrison before the visit and was aware of the family’s concerns about their son but he said the issues the Harrisons were reporting to him were not ones he saw for himself.

Questioned by barrister Bridget Dolan KC for Mrs Harrison the witness confirmed he had not tried to speak to Harrison’s GP Dr Richard Tristham, and was not aware that the doctor had, like Harrison’s parents, requested a mental health assessment be done. 

Asked if the fact that the GP’s request had not been passed on to him meant ‘the system was not safe’ he replied: ‘It seems reasonable to conclude that the system broke down on this occasion’.

Dr Harrison, a father of four and a renowned chest consultant, helped to set up the Respiratory Unit at Swansea’s Morriston Hospital during a nearly 40-year long career in the NHS

The barrister put it to the witness that given Harrison’s history, if he had obtained all the information that was available from Harrison’s family, friends, and his GP, if he had not ‘avoided asking difficult questions of Dan’ during the meetings, and if he had not ‘closed his mind’ to other professional points of view then he ‘should have known that Dan was having a relapse’. 

The witness denied he had avoided asking difficult questions, saying felt the best chance of eliciting information from Harrison was by allowing him to ‘tell his story’ rather than ‘firing questions’ at him. 

He also denied having closed his mind to other options and other professional points of view, and said the large amount of information supplied by Mr and Mrs Harrison had provided ‘sufficient background to Dan’.

Mr Johnston told the inquest that his observation of Harrison ‘did not match’ the experiences being reported by the family. 

He said: ‘I was satisfied that Dan’s expressed wishes about how he lived his life were not directly related to any acute psychotic episode.’

By March 2022 Harrison was being detained at Ward F at Neath Port Talbot Hospital when, on the morning of the 12th, he absconded from the unit by pushing past a member of staff who was using a swipe card to unlock a door. 

He ran to Port Talbot bus station where he caught a taxi to Clydach before alighting at The Mond and then walking to his parents’ detached house on the outskirts of the village.

Staff at the unit rang Harrison’s mother, Jane, and told her he had left the hospital, and she and her husband responded by locking the doors and windows of their house. 

A short while later their son arrived at the property and began banging on the kitchen door. Mrs Harrison went into another room to call 999 and while on the phone she heard her husband opening the back door to their son. 

She returned to the kitchen to find her husband laying on the floor with catastrophic head and neck injuries and not breathing. 

Mrs Harrison, like her husband a retired doctor, put the gravely-injured man in the recovery position and called 999. The casualty was rushed to hospital but could not be saved.

Meanwhile Harrison walked to Morriston and caught a bus to the centre of Swansea. After buying food he caught a train to London. 

He was tracked down to a hotel in Paddington where he was arrested the following day by Met Police officers as he ran a bath. 

Harrison pleaded guilty to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility when he appeared at Swansea Crown Court in August 2022 and was made the subject of a hospital order. 

The court heard that given the nature of his mental disorders it may never be safe to release him back into the community.

The inquest, which is expected to last two weeks, continues.

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