Dangerous absconder from Hackney mental health unit: ‘Why was he not tagged?’

Cornell Destouches needs daily medication to control his paranoid schizophrenia (Photo: Metropolitan

Cornell Destouches needs daily medication to control his paranoid schizophrenia (Photo: Metropolitan Police) - Credit: Archant

Questions have been asked about why the latest in a string of “violent” detainees to go AWOL from a mental health unit was not tagged.

John Howard Centre in Hackney

John Howard Centre in Hackney - Credit: Archant

Cornell Destouches, who police say becomes more dangerous the longer he goes without his schizophrenia medication, was not tagged when he fled on Sunday while on escorted leave from the John Howard Centre in Kenworthy Road, Homerton.

He ran away in Walthamstow and was still on the loose as the Gazette went to press.

The 25-year-old needs daily medication to treat paranoid schizophrenia, and police have warned the public to dial 999 immediately if they see him.

Last summer the centre bowed to pressure and announced it would electronically tag detainees on escorted leave, after the third patient went missing in as many months.

But the centre has revealed that Destouches was not tagged.

In January an appeal was launched to trace Safdar Shah – described as “potentially violent and dangerous” – who was carrying his passport when he absconded, and was also not tagged.

Most Read

A spokesman for the centre said then that the plan was to extend the pilot and roll out electronic tagging by the end of the month.

MP Meg Hillier is “shocked” at the latest escape, and has asked the John Howard Centre for a full explanation.

“They didn’t tag him and I want to find out from them what’s going on,” she said.

“There is a difference between someone getting back late because they missed the bus, but when someone particularly dangerous has run away, that’s intent. The main thing is to get this person back into custody again so the public is safe.”

Acting Chief Inspector Ian Simpkins told the Gazette: “There are significant resources going into the manhunt again, and there’s a concern about his medication. The risk is escalating over time, and he’s known for particularly violent offences.”

Mr Simpkins said it could have potentially made it easier for the police to trace him had he been tagged, assuming the tag stayed on.

“As I understand it he has now got sufficient capacity to understand the implications of what he is doing so it might have provided a deterrent, knowing that he would have had to remove a tag.

“No tag will be indestructible forever, if he was committed to remove it, you would need an implement to remove it.”

The centre, which specialises in caring for detainees with personality disorders, has been the subject of multiple investigations due to the number of escapes.

A £1,000 reward is on offer for information to trace Peter Kerrigan, 26, an Irish Traveller dubbed one of ‘Britain’s most prolific burglars’ who targeted vulnerable pensioners dressed as a police officer, who is still at large after going AWOL one year ago.

A Freedom of Information request revealed more than 200 criminals absconded whilst under the care of the medium secure psychiatric unit in the past decade.

In October 2014 child snatcher Shane Hart, 54, was with two escorts when he gave them the slip – the second time he had disappeared whist on escorted leave within the space of five years. He was found two days later after a massive operation.

And schizophrenic Samuel Lee who is serving time for raping a disabled woman, was described by the police as “violent” when he absconded for three days while on unsupervised leave in June 2014.

A spokesman for the John Howard Centre said: “Although electronic monitoring is now available for use across the whole of the John Howard Centre, this patient was not required to wear an electronic monitor.

“Our practice is to use electronic monitoring as part of a leave plan.

“Patients who are moving towards being discharged home, cease to be monitored as part of their discharge plan.”