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Thug sabotages murder trial by swallowing razors and soiling himself

Trial was taking place at the Old Bailey
Trial was taking place at the Old Bailey

A disturbed thug who stabbed a grandfather in the back has sabotaged his own murder trial by swallowing razors, soiling himself and refusing to answer questions about the killing.

Joseph Tripp, 33, repeatedly swore and ranted in the dock in front of jurors at the Old Bailey as he was tried for the murder of 54-year-old former electrician Derek MacAllister.

In a rare legal move, the judge found the defendant unfit to stand trial midway through his evidence as he refused to co-operate with his own barrister.

The court also heard that he was found to have repeatedly swallowed razor blades and soiled himself in protest while in custody.

Reversing his earlier ruling on the matter, Judge Jeremy Donne QC on Wednesday said: "I still harbour doubts about this defendant but that is not enough to overturn my decision in this case. I do find this defendant is unfit to be tried."

Tripp had denied murder and having an offensive weapon but jurors, who were told they could no longer decide on his guilt, found he did commit the acts after less than two hours of deliberations.

Judge Donne said the defendant was now likely to be sent to Broadmoor high security hospital until he is fit to stand trial again, as he had previously tried to escape from a medium secure unit.

He told jurors: "This was a highly unusual case and it has not been easy for anyone involved in it, least of all you. There are some members of Mr MacAllister's family in court who have had to listen to very difficult evidence and will no doubt be very concerned this case has not come to a clear cut conclusion.

"Even though they had suffered a degree of provocation on occasions they had behaved with very great dignity throughout these proceedings.

"The reason you were kept out of court on a number of occasions was because of the defendant's behaviour. He continually managed to smuggle razor blades from his cell to court and on those occasions he swallowed these razor blades when they tried to take them off him."

The judge spoke of the difficulties in deciding if Tripp was a "very manipulative man" or whether his behaviour could be put down to a personality disorder as experts had been split.

He also commended three police officers who worked tirelessly to keep the "difficult" case on track, with one even buying Tripp new trousers from JD Sports to wear in court when he soiled himself in "yet another attempt to disrupt proceedings".

The trial had heard that Tripp bought a large kitchen knife then attacked Mr MacAllister with it as he walked along the road in East Finchley, north London, on the afternoon of December 30 2015.

Tripp knew Mr MacAllister and, only days earlier, had bought him a can of beer to celebrate his birthday, jurors were told.

But on the day of the killing, a row had erupted in a Coral betting shop in which Tripp picked up a chair and shouted at Mr MacAllister and his girlfriend.

As the couple walked away, Tripp went to a nearby shop and bought an 8in (20cm) carving knife for £4.99. He then hid behind parked cars and pounced on the couple as they walked past.

Prosecutor Gillian Etherton QC told jurors: "They were oblivious to the defendant who came out from between the cars. Mr MacAllister's back was to him.

"The defendant walked quickly and, when he reached Mr MacAllister, lunged at him and stabbed him in the back."

The blow was struck with such force that the knife cut a bone in the victim's spine, the court heard.

Mr MacAllister, who had celebrated his 54th birthday the day before the attack, died in hospital on January 13 last year.

Upon his arrest at his Finchley home, Tripp told police he was the one who had been attacked at the bookies and claimed: "I'm the f****** victim."

However, CCTV footage of the stabbing, eyewitnesses, and the victim's blood on Tripp's jeans pointed to him being the attacker, even though the knife was never recovered.

Tripp's thumbprint was also found on the packaging of the knife which was discarded in a bin nearby, the court heard.

The defendant was assessed by multiple psychiatrists and psychologists and found to have an anti-social and mentally unstable personality disorder, although they did not agree on his fitness to stand trial.

Ms Etherton told jurors that, despite this condition, he was capable of exercising self-control and knew what he was doing.

She said: "Put simply the defendant left Coral Bookmakers with the sole intention of stabbing Mr MacAllister to teach him a lesson for the earlier incident."

The case will return to court on August 11 when the judge is expected to confirm that Tripp will be held at Broadmoor until he is deemed fit to stand trial again.