Parents of murdered care worker demand answers

The parents of a mental health worker who was killed by a service user are demanding explanations about the circumstances that led to her murder.

Ashleigh Ewing, 22, who worked for the Sunderland charity Mental Health Matters, was stabbed 39 times by Ronald Dixon, a paranoid schizophrenic, after she visited his flat alone.

Dixon, 35, pleaded guilty to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility last week at Newcastle Crown Court and was detained indefinitely.

In the months leading up to Ewing’s murder in May last year, there were signs that Dixon’s mental health was deteriorating, the court heard. Dixon, from Hebburn, South Tyneside, also had a violent past which Ewing’s parents, Aileen and Jeff, claim their daughter was unaware of. 

In 1994, Dixon received two years probation and psychiatric treatment for attacking his sleeping parents with a hammer. Then in January last year, he was detained after claiming he was Henry VIII’s son, King Ron, and telling guards outside Buckingham Palace he wanted to kill the Queen. A community psychiatric nurse then recommended that Dixon should not be visited by less than two people.

In court last week, Patrick Cosgrove QC for the defence questioned why an inexperienced support worker was sent to visit a Dixon alone. He said: “If responsible persons had taken other rational decisions at the crucial time, Miss Ewing would never have been put in the situation of grave risk and perhaps Mr Dixon would not have been at liberty to commit the crime.”

Dixon has instructed his lawyers to seek a public inquiry into the circumstances, including his care, that led to Ewing’s death.

Following investigations by the Health and Safety Executive, North East Strategic Health Authority is commissioning an independent inquiry into Dixon’s care and a full inquest will be resumed in the New Year.

Reviews by Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Trust and Mental Health Matters have both concluded that they were “satisfied” that procedures were appropriate.

Ewing’s parents called for a more rigorous approach to caring for mental health service users in the community.

Ian Grant, chief executive of Mental Health Matters, described Ewing as a “highly valued and very able employee”. 

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