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Inmate who electrocuted himself ‘deserved better’ says dad he stabbed

Dean Saunders (Pic: BBC)
Dean Saunders (Pic: BBC)

A father who was stabbed by his mentally ill son while trying to save his life has told an inquest his son needed help, not prison.

Dean Saunders, 25, was charged with two counts of attempted murder after reports that he stabbed two members of his family, Essex Coroner's Court heard on Monday.

It happened on the day he was released from a mental health unit at Rochford Hospital, where he had been detained hours earlier after exhibiting signs of paranoia at his girlfriend's parents' house in Basildon.

His family had hoped to arrange a mental health assessment at their home, the inquest into Saunders' death heard.

Saunders was remanded in custody in Chelmsford prison, where he died after he electrocuted himself in his cell on January 4 last year.

His father, Mark Saunders, who was stabbed while trying to stop his son from harming himself, said he held the knife into himself to try to protect Dean.

The stabbing incident unfolded at the family home in Wickford, Essex, on December 16, 2015.

"He walked straight through into the lounge where his brother was on his phone and went to attack him with a knife," said Mr Saunders. "I was sat at the other side of the room.

"It took me a few seconds to realise what was going on.

"I rugby-tackled him, took him down, said 'what's going on, what are you doing?'"

He said the knife fell to the floor, Dean looked at him with a "puzzled face" then picked up another knife.

Mr Saunders said he realised his son intended to take his own life and he was stabbed trying to stop him.

"The knife had gone in me," he said. "I put my hand on top as I thought if he can't take the knife out, he can't hurt himself."

Dean managed to side-step his father and put the knife to his throat, but inadvertently did so with the back of the blade, giving Mr Saunders another chance to stop him.

Police were called during the scuffle and Dean was taken to Basildon police station.

"I was shocked, but my only concern was Dean received the treatment he needed as he wanted to die," said Mr Saunders. "Because of my injuries, they classed me as a victim and I wasn't allowed to have direct contact with Dean, but I thought he obviously needs help or he will finish this act.

"Next time he tries, he will make sure he doesn't fail."

He said he was "almost led to believe" his son would be transferred to a mental health unit immediately, but he was instead remanded in prison.

Senior Essex coroner Caroline Beasley-Murray said a major issue for the inquest to establish would be whether the authorities did everything possible to prevent Dean's death.

She said Dean was initially under constant supervision at Chelmsford prison, but this was reduced to 30-minute intervals.

A post-mortem examination recorded the medical cause of death as electrocution.

In a written statement, Dean's family said: "Dean was a kind and loving man.

"We hope that the inquest will properly explore what went wrong with his care and ensure that there are changes so that this doesn't happen to another family.

"We want justice for Dean. He deserved so much better."

The jury inquest in Chelmsford continues.