Tragic Outcome in Supermarket Assault: Woman’s Premonition of Violence Ends in Elderly Man’s Death

PENYGRAIG, Wales — In a harrowing episode that underscores the challenges of managing mental health issues, an 88-year-old man was fatally attacked in a local supermarket, an inquest revealed. The attacker, Zara Radcliffe, who suffers from schizophrenia, assaulted John Rees and injured three others during the incident on May 5, 2020. Radcliffe later ominously told police, “I knew I was going to kill someone today.”

The tragedy unfolded in the Co-op store in Penygraig, Rhondda Cynon Taf, where Radcliffe, amid a psychotic episode, used wine bottles and a fire extinguisher as weapons not only against Rees but also against other shoppers. Statements from the court indicated that she had ceased taking her prescribed medication and may have been using recreational drugs again.

Concerns about Radcliffe’s deteriorating mental health were flagged earlier on the day of the attack. Her father, Wayne Radgrave, made multiple calls to the crisis mental health team as early as 9 a.m., expressing urgent concerns about his daughter’s condition. He specifically requested a visit, emphasizing that Radcliffe was likely off her medication and exhibiting worrying behaviors.

Despite these alarm bells, Radcliffe’s interaction with mental health services had been minimal post her discharge from the Royal Glamorgan Hospital on February 24, prior to the attack. She had been an in-patient receiving mental health care for about four months, and in the ten weeks following her release, records show she had just two interactions with community mental health staff.

On the day of the attack, Radcliffe’s care coordinator, Laura Morse, decided to visit her after Radcliffe’s father voiced his concerns. Morse stated in court that she had been warned about the possibility of aggression from Mr. Radcliffe but felt it was critical to see Zara that day.

Earlier, Radcliffe had unexpectedly contacted the police, reporting a “domestic incident” and asserting that she had locked herself in her home. Police Officer Jack Cotton, who took the call, mentioned that Radcliffe did not appear intoxicated or threatening over the phone. However, approximately two hours later, Cotton heard radio reports describing a violent altercation in the supermarket involving Radcliffe.

Following her arrest at the scene, Radcliffe was taken to Merthyr Tydfil police station. During her custody, Sergeant James Pearce recalled her chilling acknowledgment of a premeditated intent to kill.

The inquest also heard from Dr. Gaynor Jones, a consultant psychiatrist who assessed Radcliffe post-incident. According to Dr. Jones, Radcliffe was “clearly psychotic” at the time of the attack, driven by hallucinations that convinced her she needed to harm someone for her own safety.

In October 2020, Radcliffe was sentenced to detention at Rampton high-security hospital under a hospital order, a move meant to ensure extensive psychiatric treatment and protect public safety.

This incident has highlighted significant gaps in community mental health support, particularly in the robustness of follow-up care for individuals with severe mental disorders post-hospitalization. It raises critical questions about the effectiveness of current mental health systems and the need for immediate and continuous care for at-risk individuals in the community.