A teenager of Norwegian national of Somali origin Zakaria Bulhan, 19 has admitted killing an American citizen and injuring five other people in a knife attack in central London. Bulhan struck just after 10.30pm in Russell Square, an area popular with tourists which is near the British Museum. He was seen “moving erratically” and holding a large kitchen knife.
“As he passed the members of the public, he would veer across the pavement towards them,” said prosecutor Mark Heywood QC at a court hearing this morning.
“Without warning or provocation, the man stabbed six people in quick succession, saying nothing to any of them, moving on after each stabbing towards his next victim. Of the six persons stabbed by the defendant, five suffered non-fatal injuries and have made good recoveries. However, one, Darlene Horton, an American citizen who was a visitor to the UK at the time, received a stab wound to the back which penetrated her left lung and her heart, a devastating injury from which she died at the scene.”
Police were at the scene within six minutes as initial fears were of a terrorist attack in a square near to where one of the devices in the 7/7 bombings was detonated. But Bulhan, who has no previous convictions, was found to have been experiencing a psychotic episode.
Zakaria , who moved to the UK in 2002, denied the attempted murder of Martin Hoenisch, 59, Lillie Selletin, 23, David Imber, 40, Bernard Hepplewhite, 65, and Yovel Lewkowski, 18. He pleaded guilty to wounding with intent after injuring them in the same attack.
Police subdued Bulhan with a stun gun after the late-night attack in Russell Square, a busy tourist hub. The stabbings raised fears of terrorism, but police said it was not considered a terrorist attack.
Having been assessed by psychiatrists following his arrest on the night of the attack, he was held at top security hospital, Broadmoor, where doctors passed him as fit to enter pleas.
After the charge of murder was put to him, Bulhan responded: “Not guilty of murder, but guilty of manslaughter by diminished responsibility.”
Bulhan, held at Broadmoor hospital since his arrest, had been experiencing auditory hallucinations and paranoid delusions. He believed he was being followed and the devil had told him to kill, the court heard.
He said he had been hearing “cunning and manipulative” voices before the attacks, and believed magic spells were put on him when people spat in his direction, one psychiatrist reported. Another psychiatrist diagnosed paranoid schizophrenia. Of the stabbings Bulhan told one psychiatrist: “I can’t remember and I don’t want to.”
“I attacked the people because of the voices. It was like something took control of me.”
“I can’t remember and I don’t want to.”
Bulhan’s family had noticed his mental health deteriorating, the court heard, and his father was looking after him on the day of the attacks.
Victim was with her husband
Horton had arrived in the UK in June. Her husband, Florida State University psychology professor Richard Wagner, was teaching a summer session in London. The couple had been out for dinner and were heading back home when the stabbings happened.