MENTAL health chiefs yesterday admitted failures in the care of a former soldier from the North East who massacred four members of his family.
David Bradley shot dead his aunt, uncle and two cousins in Newcastle in 2006.
But NHS experts found the sequence of events could have been different if the shortcomings in the care provided to him had not been present.
And that “in turn may have led to a different outcome”, the chairman of the independent panel that compiled the report said.
However, he added that “the final, catastrophic outcome” could not have been predicted.
The Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust yesterday apologised for the shortcomings in the care it had provided.
Bradley shot and killed Peter and Josie Purcell, both 70, and cousins Keith Purcell, 44, and Glen Purcell, 41, in a four-hour shooting spree at the home he shared with them, in Benwell Grove, Benwell, Newcastle.
The killer, now 46, then turned himself in at the city’s West End police station, still holding the weapon in his hands.
Bradley first had contact with the mental health services almost 10 years before he became a killer.
The report found the care he had received prior to his rampage had not been in line with national guidelines.
The review panel concluded risk issues had been identified but never dealt with in any systematic way.
It also felt there had been a lack of adequate record-keeping and communication in relation to Bradley.
The report also says that Bradley’s care had not been in line with the multi-disciplinary care programme approach.
Professor Aidan Mullan, director of nursing, patient safety and provider development at Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust said: “First and foremost, our deepest sympathies go to the extended family of Mr Bradley.
“This appalling incident has undoubtedly been particularly harrowing for them and there are absolutely no excuses for the shortcomings in the care that was provided to David.
“We commissioned this independent investigation to get a clear picture of David’s interaction with health services, to understand where things can be improved and most crucially, to ensure that lessons can be learned and shared throughout the NHS to prevent similar incidents from occurring.
“It is important to note there have been vast improvements in mental health care since 2006.
“Our priority is always to ensure the highest possible quality of care for the thousands of people who access local services every year and we take the findings of this report most seriously.”
The report identified the fact that Bradley had suffered a tough and violent childhood and had been bullied at school. His exposure to violence and death during his service with the army, from 1982, was blamed for playing a “significant” part in the lead-up to the shooting.
He served in the first Gulf War, in 1991, and also had a tour of Northern Ireland, where he witnessed a number of traumatic incidents.
Bradley’s first contact with mental health services came in 1997 when he was referred by his GP, after appearing “tense” and “visibly shaking” during his consultation. He admitted to feeling ready to “explode in violent outbursts”.
By December of 1997 Bradley was noted to be suffering from a total loss of hair from his body, alopecia totalis.
At the time of the killings Bradley was under the care of the secondary mental health services provided by Northumberland Tyne and Wear NHS Trust (NTW).
Bradley declined a request from the report’s authors to interview him in relation to his care.
Barrister Euan Duff, who chaired the independent panel, said: “Whilst it is evident that the final catastrophic outcome could not have been predicted, there were a number of shortcomings in the care which he was provided at various stages.
“If none of those shortcomings had been present it may well have altered the sequence of events, which in turn may have led to a different outcome.”
Bradley was jailed for a minimum of 15 years at Newcastle Crown Court, after admitting manslaughter with diminished responsibility, but told he was unlikely to ever walk free. The killer is currently detained at Rampton secure hospital in Nottinghamshire.
Killer shot dead his family in their home
IT WAS a crime that sent shockwaves across the North East.
On July 8, 2006, disturbed David Bradley massacred four members of his unsuspecting family during a five-hour killing spree at their home in Benwell Grove, in Newcastle’s West End.
The 43-year-old shot his aunt and uncle, Peter and Josie Purcell, both 70, and his two cousins, Keith, 44, and Glen, 41, one by one with a silenced handgun.
In the early hours of a Saturday morning, the ex-soldier had flipped and gone on a wrecking spree in the Purcells’ house, where he was staying.
He was throwing things about when Keith Purcell asked what he was doing.
Describing the chain of harrowing events at the time, Bradley said: "I was in such a state, I just ran downstairs and laid into him and then I got my gun and I just shot him in the head.
"I went straight into the sitting room. Peter Purcell was lying on the settee. I didn’t hesitate. I just walked up to him and just popped him.
"I went back upstairs and started wrecking the place. I heard my aunt coming in as I was throwing things around the place.
"I just automatically picked the weapon up and just popped her in the back of the head."
Bradley then resumed his wrecking spree. Three hours later his cousin Glen arrived home. Without hesitating, he shot him too.
A short while later, the killer calmly gave himself up and confessed to the executions after arriving at a police station and dumping an arsenal of weapons, including a home-made nail bomb, on the front inquiry desk.
He told detectives he had felt nothing when he shot his victims, telling them: "There is just nothing there. I have always been a cold bastard and a loner."
Peter Purcell had been shot once through the right temple as he lay, probably sleeping, on the sofa in the sitting room. His wife, who was lying on the floor in the same room, had been shot through the right side of the head.
Their son Keith had been shot once through the left side of the head. Glen Purcell had been shot four times in the head and neck.
"WE would like to apologise to the relatives of the Purcell family and to David Bradley, for the shortcomings in his care which are outlined in the pages of this report. We take the findings most seriously.
"David Bradley was a patient of our community mental health services in Newcastle and whilst the report concludes that the tragic events which occurred in the early hours of the 9th July 2006 could not have been foreseen, it does identify a number of areas for improvements – many of which we acted upon immediately following the incident.
"We would like to reassure both David’s family and the public that we have rigorously improved the areas of care that were found to fall short of good practice to make sure the same mistakes do not happen again. Working with the local authority, community mental health services in Newcastle have changed considerably in the past five years, ensuring that the risk of a similar incident happening again in the future has been greatly reduced.
"It is also important to note that awareness of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is now much greater than it was back in 2006 and we have now appointed a specialist Veterans’ Nurse Consultant working in partnership with the charitable organisation Combat Stress, to help develop specially tailored treatment options for patients with PTSD.
"We have also strengthened our risk assessment processes and patients are now seen by a specialist multi-disciplinary team to ensure they get access to the right support in relation to their social circumstances, as well as the right treatment options, without delay.
"Despite these improvements, we continue to take every opportunity to improve our services and work closely with all of our partners – including primary care commissioners and local authorities – to ensure those who are most vulnerable and need our support get the best possible care both now, and in the future.
"Patient and public safety is our absolute priority and whilst tragic incidents like this are extremely rare, our aim is to make sure that each and every one of the 70,000 people who need our help every year, receive care of the highest possible quality and in the safest possible way."