Boy who attacked sleeping children at private school Blundell’s with hammer guilty of attempted murder

Blundell’s School in Devon (R-Jay/Alamy/PA) (PA Archive)
Blundell’s School in Devon (R-Jay/Alamy/PA) (PA Archive)

A boy has been found guilty of attempted murder after attacking two sleeping students and a teacher with hammers in a devastating rampage in the middle of the night at a private school.

The 16-year-old was wearing just his boxer shorts when he bludgeoned the two boys and a housemaster at Blundell’s School in Tiverton in Devon.

The teenager, who cannot be named for legal reasons, had claimed he was sleepwalking during the horrific incident on 9 June last year, and that he kept the weapons in his room in fear of a “zombie apocalypse”.

After a trial lasting more than a month at Exeter Crown Court, a jury found the boy, now aged 17, guilty of three charges of attempted muder on Friday.

Mr James Dawes KC, prosecuting, had told the court how the boy had climbed up to where his victims were sleeping in cabin-style beds before smashing a hammer on their heads, arms and backs.

“These blows smashed their skulls,” said Mr Dawes.

After being awoken by the noise, housemaster Henry Roffe-Silvester went into the bedroom before he was also struck over the head with a hammer.

“Mr Roffe-Silvester retreated down the corridor with the defendant attacking him again and again with the hammer around his face and head,” Mr Dawes said.

A paramedic responding to the attack described the bedroom as a scene from a horror film.

A colleague added: “I have served in Iraq and had never seen such a scene of carnage, with blood over the desks, over the walls and the beds.”

Both the boys attacked suffered skull fractures and are living with the “long-term consequences” of the attack, said Mr Dawes, but added they had no memory of the incident.

The defendant, who gave no comment to questions in police interviews, told the jury he had not been conscious at the time of the attack.

Giving evidence to the jury, he said he remembered going to sleep before the attack, then seeing the dormitory covered in blood.

“I didn’t remember doing anything so the only rational thing I was thinking was that I was sleepwalking,” he said.

Expert Dr Mark Pressman also described the attack on Mr Roffe-Silvester as “a textbook example of sleepwalking violence” and said there were no features in the case inconsistent with sleepwalking.

And relatives of the defendant also told the court about a history of sleepwalking in their family.

However, the jury members, who heard how the boy had been using his iPad in the moment before the assaults, reached their verdict after 40 hours of deliberation.

Concluding the opening of the crown’s case, Mr Dawes said a police investigation had uncovered an obsession the defendant had with hammers and one of the boys.

“It may not be palatable, and it may not be particularly logical, but it appears to be an obsession which he carried out,” he said.

Parents pay up to £46,000 annual fees for full boarding students at Blundell’s School, which was opened in 1604.

Among its past pupils is Sir Christopher Ondaatje who made his fortune in a business in Canada before returning to live in the UK. He is the brother of Michael Ondaatje who wrote The English Patient.

The school’s alumni also includes R.D. Blackmore, who wrote the romance novel Lorna Doone in 1869, and physiologist Archibald V. Hill, who helped rescue thousands of academics from Nazi-dominated Europe.

On Friday, trial judge Mrs Justice Cutts said she would adjourn sentencing for the preparation of pre-sentence reports, including a psychiatric report, and would pass sentence on 18 October.

Detective Inspector Dave Egan, of Devon and Cornwall Police, welcomed the jury’s verdict while thanking paramedics who responded to the incident, providing “life-saving” assistance to those injured.

He added: “The assaults were both brutal and savage and I believe that his intent was to kill.

“Our detectives worked tirelessly to prove that the offender had indeed been fully conscious when committing this horrendous attack – which had been pre-planned.”