Nottingham attacker who ‘remains dangerous’ is sentenced to be detained at high-security hospital

UK

A man who killed two Nottingham University students and a school caretaker in a knife and van rampage was told he “remains dangerous” as he was sentenced to be detained at a high-security hospital.

Valdo Calocane, 32, repeatedly stabbed 19-year-olds Barnaby Webber and Grace O’Malley-Kumar with a dagger as they walked home after a night out to celebrate the end of their exams.

He also knifed school caretaker Ian Coates, 65, to death as he made his way to work at Huntingdon Academy in the early hours of 13 June last year.

During sentencing, he was told he would be detained “very probably for the rest of your life”.

Prosecutors accepted Calocane’s guilty pleas to their manslaughter, not murder, on the basis of diminished responsibility. He also admitted three counts of attempted murder after hitting three pedestrians in a van he stole from Mr Coates.

Nottingham Crown Court heard Calocane, who suffered from paranoid schizophrenia, had previously been detained in hospital four times under mental health laws and had a history of refusing to take his medication.

On Thursday, Mr Justice Turner said the injuries inflicted on the students were “unsurvivable”, and referring to the attack on Mr Coates, he told Calocane: “You stabbed him to death with the same merciless ferocity.”

He said Calocane’s “sickening” crimes shocked the nation and “wrecked” the lives of his victims and their families.

The judge went on to individually list family members whose lives had been devastated by the attacks.

“I pay tribute to the extraordinary dignity and strength they have shown,” he said.

Addressing Calocane, Mr Justice Turner said there was “never any doubt” that it was him “who committed these appalling crimes”, and added: “None of the evidence relating to your mental state detracts from the horror of your actions.”

However, he said one of the expert reports revealed Calocane, who was “clearly an intelligent man” having taken a degree in mechanical engineering at Nottingham University, had an established diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia and that he would never be cured.

He said another expert agreed that “the basis of his behaviour is very likely to have been a psychosis” and added: “You were and remain dangerous.”

Before the sentencing began, one of Mr’s Coates’s sons got up to speak to the families of Grace O’Malley-Kumar and Barnaby Webber.

Lee Coates said “our family are here for you always”, which was echoed with “yes” from the other families and followed by a round of applause.

“I am so sorry we have had to go through this and this is how we’ve met,” Mr Coates added.

Barnaby Webber, Grace O'Malley-Kumar, Ian Coates
Image:
School caretaker Ian Coates, and students Barnaby Webber and Grace O’Malley-Kumar, were stabbed to death. Pic: Family handouts

Police: ‘We should have done more’

Calocane, who graduated from Nottingham University in June 2022 with a degree in mechanical engineering, was born in Guinea-Bissau in West Africa, and came to the UK aged 16 with his family.

Also known as Adam Mendes, he had a history of mental illness, and even once tried to hand himself into the MI5 headquarters in London, believing the British security services were controlling him.

Nottinghamshire Police’s assistant chief constable, Rob Griffin, said the force “engaged” with the attacker “mostly while supporting our colleagues in the NHS on a number of occasions between 2020 and 2022”.

He was arrested in September 2021 for assaulting a police officer and Mr Griffin said “we should have done more to arrest him” after he failed to attend court, but said it was highly unlikely he would have been jailed.

“Of course, an arrest might have triggered a route back into mental health services, but as we have seen from his previous encounters with those services, it seems unlikely that he would have engaged in this process,” he added.

Calocane was also involved in incidents of criminal damage and an alleged assault on two colleagues while working in a warehouse a month before the killings.

Read more:
‘Heroic’ Grace tried to save friend, family reveals
Barnaby’s mother misses his ‘beaming smile’
How the families paid tribute to ‘beloved’ victims

‘She tried her best to save her friend’

Prosecutor Karim Khalil KC said medical student Ms O’Malley-Kumar showed “incredible bravery” as she tried to protect Mr Webber, who was studying history, and her family hailed her as a “hero”.

“Grace’s last moments were in pain and that’s something that really hurts me to think about and she was a hero, that was her character,” her brother, James, 17, told Sky News.

“She tried her best to save her friend. That was how Grace lost her life in the most vulnerable manner. She would never leave a friend, never, and that was very evident from her last moments. She passed fighting.”

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Victim’s brother says killer ruined his life

Her father, Dr Sanjoy Kumar, a primary care physician who has worked in the NHS for 30 years, accused Calocane of deceiving psychiatrists and called for the “despicable” killer to be “removed from society altogether and forever”.

Her mother, consultant anaesthetist Sinead O’Malley, addressed the killer of her “darling girl” in court, telling him: “You understood right from wrong. You have violence in your soul.

“You are medically non-compliant and are never to be trusted. You remain a danger to society and the wider public.”

Grace O'Malley- Kumar's father, Dr Sanjoy Kumar, and brother, James O'Malley- Kumar
Image:
Grace O’Malley- Kumar’s father, Dr Sanjoy Kumar, and brother, James O’Malley- Kumar

Mr Webber’s mother Emma called Calocane a “monstrous individual”, while his father David called him a “monster”.

His younger brother Charlie Webber said he was his “hero” and he was proud he “stood his ground” before his death.

Mr Coates’ son, James, said his father was just five months away from retirement before he was killed, adding: “He didn’t get the chance because a selfish monster decided to go on a spree killing.”

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