Bonser Guilty: Probe launched into mental health services

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A PROBE into Hannah Bonser’s contact with mental health services has been launched by NHS Doncaster, Doncaster Council and mental health charity Rethink.

The 26-year-old first contacted mental health services in Doncaster when she was 16 and came to the attention of social services when she was nine.

The court heard Bonser grew up with her brother Benjamin and parents in a Mormon family and was educated at home.

Her 30-stone mother Roberta died when Bonser was just nine, and social services got involved when her father, Ronald, could not look after the children properly.

Bonser and her brother spent time in foster care and, when Bonser was 15, her father died.

Benjamin Bonser said his sister was ‘traumatised’ by the death of their mother, who was ‘the light of our lives’. “After she had gone, we fell apart,” he admitted.

Bonser’s first contact with psychiatric services was in February 2002 when she reported low moods and self-harm.

Five months later, on her 17th birthday, she went to A&E at Doncaster Royal Infirmary complaining of hearing voices in her head.

She was diagnosed with an emotionally unstable personality disorder and, for the next six years, she was in contact with mental health professionals in the community and when she turned up at hospital.

At the end of 2011 her mental health deteriorated further. A friend, Hayley Spouse, told the jury Bonser developed an interest in druids, started talking to rocks, and believed birds were actually people out to get her.

Miss Spouse put some of her behaviour down to her friend’s heavy use of cannabis.

In September, Bonser turned up at a spiritualist bookshop in London. She told the owner - pagan priestess Christina Oakley-Harrington - there was an ‘international conspiracy’ against her. She was so worried she took Bonser to hospital and she was sectioned under the mental health act.

Bonser was transferred to St Catherine’s Mental Hospital in Doncaster where she was detained but released after five days following a further diagnosis of a personality disorder.

She returned to her flat but complained it was inhabited by demons, and spoke of hearing voices.

She also told mental health professionals she was being persecuted and that her ancestors had been persecuted by the Nazis.

In January, a month before the killing, Bonser tried to get admitted to hospital again. She spent a week in crisis accommodation and, the day before she was discharged to her flat, asked twice to see a doctor for antipsychotic medication.

She told professionals she feared she was going to harm herself or others.

JURORS heard from two consultant forensic psychiatrists - one for the prosecution and one for the defence.

They had to decide whether Bonser knew what she was doing at the time of the attack, or whether the responsibility for her actions was diminished because she was psychotic.

Defence doctor Dr Alexander Shubsachs assessed Bonser shortly after her arrest on February 14.

He diagnosed her with paranoid schizophrenia based on interviews, rambling letters and other writings she produced before and after the attack.

She claimed she could not remember the attack, was being persecuted by demons, and felt she was being ‘burned’ and hearing voices.

But Professor Nigel Eastman, for the prosecution, said Bonser was not suffering schizophrenia and instead had a personality disorder and suffered ‘pseudo psychotic’ symptoms.

Describing the difference, Prof Eastman used ice cream as a metaphor. He said a normal person was like a block of vanilla ice cream - but someone with mental illness such as schizophrenia was like a block of vanilla ice cream with a black cherry on top.

He said a personality disorder was like ‘raspberry ripple’, explaining: “It runs right through who they are. It’s a disorder of who that person is and you need to be able to trace it back so you can see signs of it in adolescence.”

He added: “If somebody has a personality disorder, that may lay them open to episodes of sanity or madness, but they are still in touch with reality.”

Prof Eastman said Bonser was ‘unconvincing’ when describing her symptoms and almost displayed ‘too many’.

He said her supposed amnesia was so extensive it was not believable.


July 30, 1985: Hannah Bonser born

1995: Her mother died

2001: Her father died

2001: Bonser first comes to the attention of mental health services in Doncaster

2002: Bonser, then 17, presents herself at Doncaster Royal Infirmary complaining of hearing voices. She is diagnosed with an ‘emotional, unstable personality disorder’

September 2011: Bonser is caught with a kitchen knife on the street and given a caution by police. The same month Bonser visits a pagan priestess in London and tells her an ‘international conspiracy’ is out to get her

October 5, 2011: Bonser is sectioned under the Mental Health Act

November 18, 2011: Bonser attempts suicide

November 30: Bonser makes a second suicide attempt

December 2011: Bonser is discharged back to her flat

December 2011: Bonser rings mental health services and asks to be admitted to St Catherine’s Hospital in Doncaster. She is told to ring back the next day

January 6, 2012: Bonser turns up at Doncaster Royal Infirmary with a bag and asks to be admitted saying she is a danger to herself and others

January 8, 2012: Bonser is given emergency accommodation for seven days by mental health charity Rethink

January 30, 2012: Bonser asks Rethink twice to let her see a doctor so she can be prescribed anti-psychotic drugs

February 14, 2012: Bonser stabs Casey Kearney to death