Mother blames drug use for her disturbed son's decline

Swindon Advertiser: Michael Harris Michael Harris

MICHAEL Harris had a history of mental health issues even before he stabbed close friend Carl James on his doorstep in 2007.

According to mum Julie Morgan, Harris started smoking cannabis at the age of 14 and moved on to the more potent ‘skunk’ a few years later.

By the age of 21 he had developed schizophrenia and was prone to violent outbursts, which ultimately culminated in him killing his friend.

Unemployed Harris stabbed Carl six times in the chest on his fiancée Emma Lewis’ Priory Road doorstep while she and their three-year-old daughter Daniella were in the flat.

He then walked home to his mother’s house where he confessed to the killing and waited for the police to arrive.

A diagnosed schizophrenic, he was jailed indefinitely under the Mental Health Act in August 2007 after pleading guilty to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility.

During the hearing at Bristol Crown Court when Harris was sentenced, Rob Ross, defending, said mental health workers had been aware of Harris’s problems but did not intervene.

At the time Julie blamed her son’s cannabis use on the deterioration of his mental health and said they could not get help from the authorities. She said: “His mental health problems started at the same time he started experimenting with cannabis.

“The year before he stabbed Carl he became very ill. He started smoking more cannabis but it was the stronger stuff and it caused him to become delusional and very violent.

“How much were we supposed to do to get the help he needed? We begged and pleaded but our case was just ignored until it was too late.

“Two lives could have been saved and that is a haunting fact which will be with me for the rest of my life.”

And last year the results of an independent investigation commissioned by NHS South of England into the care and mental health treatment of Harris leading up to the killing was published and revealed poor mental health practices and management at Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Trust failed to help the killer.

The Trust has since seen a series of damning reports including into the case of Timothy Crook, who killed his parents Robert and Elsie Crook at their home in Thames Avenue in 2007.

And last week three independent reports into separate homicides committed in 2008 showed killers Liam Churchley, James Allen and James Bible received care from Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust.

But the three independent reports each identified “no direct causal factors” between the care and treatment the three men received and the killings.

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