Man guilty of murdering 'total stranger' in park

A man has been found guilty of murder after stabbing a 74-year-old woman he had never met while she was walking through a park.

Cameron Davis, 31, had denied murdering Lorna England but had pleaded guilty to manslaughter due to diminished responsibility.

Mrs England had been walking home from the supermarket when she was stabbed in the neck and chest by Davis at Ludwell Valley Park in Exeter, in the afternoon of 18 February 2023.

Mrs Justice Stacey told Exeter Crown Court it was a "brutal killing of a member of the public by a total stranger".

A photo of Davis
Cameron Davis, 31, of Exeter Road, Exmouth was found guilty of murder [BBC]

During the trial the jury heard Mrs England had left her home and walked across the park to buy flour in Lidl.

They were shown CCTV footage of her walking back across the park before she was stabbed twice in a wooded area by Davis with a kitchen knife.

Giving evidence during his trial, Davis, of Exeter Road in Exmouth, blamed failures in his care for the killing.

'He said he would kill'

At a previous hearing, Joanna Martin KC, prosecuting, said Davis stabbed Mrs England to death because he was “angry and upset” rather than affected by a mental illness to a level that his responsibility was diminished.

Ms Martin said Davis called police at 04:41 GMT on the morning of 18 February – the day he attacked Mrs England – and threatened to take his own life in a fire at his accommodation unless he was arrested.

Paramedics and police attended the property, where they found Davis sitting on the pavement outside.

“He said he was going to kill someone if he was discharged that day,” Ms Martin told the court.

“He said he had committed other crimes in the past and always got away with it. He repeated that if he was discharged, he would kill a random person.”

Davis was taken to the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital, where he was told that if he did anything it would be a pre-meditated crime.

Two psychiatrists discussed whether to section Davis and decided that he did not need to be admitted to hospital.

He later bought vodka and a knife at a Lidl supermarket and went to Ludwell Valley Park, where he fatally attacked Mrs England and took her mobile phone.

After leaving the park, Davis went to shops and two pubs in Exeter before being spotted on CCTV sitting on the pavement in the city centre at 9.30pm.

'A massive void'

In a statement released through Devon and Cornwall Police after the verdict, Mrs England's family said they were "devastated by the brutal murder of our much-loved Lorna".

They said: “We have been tormented by the violence, pain and suffering inflicted by Cameron Davis on Lorna from such a mindless and brutal knife attack.

“We will never be able to come to terms with losing Lorna in this truly horrific and evil way.

“Every day we are tortured and tormented as we constantly relive in our heads what Lorna endured prior and during the attack, what she had to go through, what she saw, heard and experienced that day.”

The family continued: “Life without Lorna is lonely and empty.

“The family home misses her presence, her love, her laughter and her voice.

“There’s a massive void in our lives now, which has changed forever. This has had a profound and lasting impact on all of her family and friends.

“Every single second of every day we miss Lorna and are living a nightmare.”

'Shocking and brutal'

Addressing the jury, the judge said she hoped the verdict would bring some sense of “comfort and closure” to Mrs England’s family, describing it as an “awful, awful case”.

“This has been one of the most shocking and brutal killings – the killing of a member of the public walking through a park by a complete stranger taps into very deep-seated, human fears,” she said.

“The tragedy for the England family and their grief is unimaginable.”

Davis was told he will be sentenced on Thursday.

Following the trial Exeter, East and Mid Devon Commander Superintendent Antony Hart said: "This was a savage attack against an entirely innocent woman who had no way of defending herself.

"Our thoughts will always remain with Lorna’s family and friends.”

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