Mother of Sheffield axeman: How my son's mental health problems led to attack on PC Lisa Bates

'I do apologise to Lisa Bates and her family. But that is not my son, he is not that type of person.'

Valerie Sumner
Valerie Sumner

The mother of the man who attacked a Sheffield police officer with an axe has said his mental health problems led to the attack.

Nathan Sumner was suffering a psychotic episode when he attacked PC Lisa Bates with an axe in Gleadless Valley earlier this year, hitting her in the head and severing one of her fingers.

Nathan Sumner

His mother Valerie told the Star that while her son Nathan has been portrayed as a ‘monster’ for the attack, the truth is far more complicated.

“It is out of his character, he is not a bad person,” she said.

“She will be affected by it for the rest of her life.

“It is a tragedy.”

Lisa Bates

Valerie said is urging people dealing with mental health problems to seek help rather than remain silent.

She said Nathan, aged 36, has been suffering with depression from much of his adult life after witnessing his younger sister being hit by a car when he was a teenager.

“He got it into his head it was his fault and ended up having a nervous breakdown,” she said.

“He was under the care of mental health workers. Then he seemed to get better but he has always struggled with depression.”

Nathan Sumner

She said Nathan had lived at home with her in the Manor area until around a couple of years ago, when he moved to a flat in Gleadless Valley.

“He is suffering. He knows he has got to pay for what he has done,” she said.

“But the way the system has treated him is wrong.

“It took nearly six months before I could see my son in jail. He was a Category A prisoner.”

Lisa Bates

Sumner was given a 15-year custodial sentence. He has been sent to a psychiatric hospital and will be transferred to prison if he is deemed fit. He must serve at least 10 years of his sentence before he will be considered for release.

The prosecution during the trial alleged Sumner made a deliberate attempt to kill PC Bates.

But a jury found him not guilty of attempted murder and guilty of a lesser charge of causing grievous bodily harm with intent.

The court heard during the course of the trial Sumner had been suffering a psychotic episode at the time and believed aliens were after him.

Valerie said: “He didn’t know it was a police officer he was doing it to, he thought it was aliens.”

She said that as a youngster, Nathan had been a promising sprinter who ran for Hallamshire Harriers and was actually sponsored by South Yorkshire Police.

But when he was 15 he was knocked over by a car and broke his leg, effectively putting an end to his hopes of a professional career in the sport.

“He was a very talented runner, they were describing him as the next Linford Christie,” she said.

She said a few years later Nathan had been looking after his younger sister, then aged 10, when she got out of the house and was hit by a car.

While his sister survived, Valerie said Nathan had been badly affected by the incident.

She said she learnt during the court case that Nathan had sought medical help in 2014 after a friend had died in a car crash.

She said she has already advised one of Nathan’s friends to seek help after hearing he was ‘struggling’.

“I said ‘Please go and get help’. He knows Nathan and what happened to Nathan could happen to him.”

Valerie said it has been difficult for everyone who knew Nathan to come to terms with what happened.

“This was a shock to everybody that Nathan did something like this,” she said.

“If this was a violent person, I could say ‘yeah’. But he has never been involved in anything like this.

“He has looked after people’s kids, he has always been a child person.”

Valerie said she had never seen the axe that Nathan had been keeping in his flat and used to attack PC Bates.

“The first time they showed the video in court, if anybody took notice of Nathan his head was down, he never watched it.

“He is ashamed of that video.

“It took four months to go and see him, he was in solitary confinement.

“That is not good for his mental state.”

Valerie said she had flown out to Jamaica on the day of the incident.

“I got internet the next day and the phone was just bombarded with calls and I could see there was something wrong,” she said.

“I couldn’t do anything. I was in a state.

“I just couldn’t believe it, I couldn’t believe it was my son.”

Valerie said she had seen her son the weekend before and while he had been ‘upset’, there was no indication he would be involved in such an incident.

“I wouldn’t have thought this would have happened. There was nothing to say he was going to hurt somebody,” she said.

She said it has been hard coming to terms with her son becoming a public figure because of his attack on PC Bates.

She said: “The trial wasn’t that bad.

“But with people on the road, I have had a lot of arguments over it. They don’t know my son.

“The people that do know him are the people that have kept me going.

“I’m telling you it could happen to anybody. That is what people don’t realise.

“We are devastated as a family, we are absolutely devastated. But we have got to keep strong for Nathan.”