Friday, 18 Sep 2020

One-armed roller skater detained indefinitely over 'terrifying' stabbing spree

A one-armed roller skater who stabbed three people during a ‘terrifying’ rampage while in the midst of a mental breakdown has been detained indefinitely in a psychiatric hospital.

Benjamin Bridgeman, 38, believed the innocent strangers he was attacking were aliens who had murdered his family and that he was trying to save the world ‘in an epic fight of good against evil’.

One victim was knifed twice in the back and another would have been stabbed through the head had they not moved at the last second. Bridgeman was found not guilty of attempted murder by reason of insanity at Bristol Crown Court.

Chilling CCTV footage shows him roaming the streets of Knowle with the knife clearly visible in his hand on February 25. It also shows a van driver ploughing into him and passers-by hitting him with road signs in a desperate attempt to bring the spree to an end – all to no avail.

Bridgeman, who has had one arm since birth, went on to stab Sergeant Ross Hurwood, who had fired a Taser at him, before he was finally arrested when another officer deployed his own stun gun.

Passing sentence, Mr Justice Griffiths said: ‘It is a miracle no one was killed.

‘The first victim was stabbed twice in the back; the second victim would have been stabbed through the head, but he moved his head so that the blade connected with his scalp.

‘You skated on. By this time there was panic on the streets as you skated around with blood dripping from your knife.

‘At least four brave members of the public threw themselves into the task of trying to stop you, by picking up road signs, sandbags and whatever came to hand on the street, and using them to try and bring you to a halt and get you to the ground.

‘Because you had the advantage of roller skates, and appeared to be demonstrating superhuman speed, balance and strength, they did not succeed in stopping you, but only in obstructing you.

‘These were terrifying attacks. They had tragically lasting effects on your victims, particularly the civilian victims. They have not only been severely traumatised but continue to suffer physically from their injuries.

‘You thought that the people you were attacking were aliens who were in an epic fight of good against evil, with you representing the good.

‘You thought that they had murdered your family and subjected them to excruciating pain. For that reason, you are not guilty by reason of insanity.’

The judge also issued commendations for four members of the public, and Sgt Hurwood, for their bravery.

Bridgeman, from Whitchurch in Bristol, was sentenced to an indefinite hospital order under sections 37 and 41 of the Mental Health Act, and will continue to be treated at Wellesley Hospital.

Psychiatrists agreed he was suffering from a ‘disease of the mind’ at the time. He had been suffering mental health problems since he was a teenager.

Michael Mather-Lees QC, defending, said the case was ‘born out of the tragedy of mental illness and it is merciful worse did not happen’.

He read a short letter written by Bridgeman, in which he apologised for what happened.

‘I wish to make it clear that I am very sorry that my mental health got to such a level it resulted in harm to others,’ he wrote.

‘I wish I could change the grief I have caused, not only to the victims but to my friends and family.

‘I was suffering from a disease of the mind, there was no malice, just a set of delusional beliefs which led me to hurt innocent people.

‘I am going to make sure I take all the help I can and make sure nothing like this happens again.’

Detective Inspector David Lewis, of Avon and Somerset Police, said: ‘Ultimately, this is a sad case in which a man experiencing a psychotic episode has caused significant physical and emotional harm to others and himself.

‘Despite the risks they faced, several members of the public courageously attempted to intervene before police arrived.

‘Their selfless bravery is humbling and if it weren’t for their actions someone could have been killed.’

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