Mentally ill man killed woman in drug-induced psychosis, jury says
A 34-year-old man brutally killed a young woman during a psychotic episode brought on by use of cannabis and amphetamine, an inquest jury has found.
Jurors said Matthew Williams, who suffered a cardiac arrest shortly after being Tasered by police officers responding to a 999 call, died a “sudden, unexpected” death caused by a “culmination of illicit drug use and struggle against restraint”, Gwent coroner’s court heard.
On Wednesday, the jury concluded that Cerys Yemm, 22, who was attacked by Williams in his room at the Sirhowy Arms hotel in Argoed, south Wales, at around 1am on 6 November 2014, had been unlawfully killed.
Williams used the broken shards of a cereal bowl to cut Yemm’s face and neck, removed one of her eyes and bit her stomach, the inquest heard.
After Yemm’s screams alerted other residents, hotel owner Mandy Miles opened the door to the room to find the “horrific” scene of Williams, who had a history of drug use and mental health problems, on top of Yemm, with blood around his mouth.
Williams carried on with the attack after he was interrupted, saying “That is no girl” when asked what he was doing to Yemm.
In relation to his death, jurors said: “In the early hours of November 6 2014, Matthew Williams was in his room at the Sirhowy Arms hotel … Prior to his death, Matthew took amphetamine and cannabis, which led him to experience drug-induced psychosis.”
They said the drug use “caused him to become violent”, adding: “After the subsequent arrival of the police, Matthew was restrained and he resisted arrest.
“He was attended by paramedics, but his condition deteriorated and he was transferred to an ambulance [where] attempts were made to resuscitate him … Matthew was pronounced dead at 02.18 hours.”
Coroner David T Bowen told jurors that unlawful killing was the only finding they could make regarding Yemm’s death.
The jury said: “In the early hours of November 6 2014, Cerys Yemm was with a companion in his room at the Sirhowy Arms hotel when she was violently attacked and she suffered severe and fatal injuries.”
In a statement released after the conclusion of the inquest, Yemm’s family said: “We want to pay tribute to our beautiful daughter Cerys, who was kind, caring and could always see the best in people.
“Throughout this inquest we have been searching for the answers to our questions as to how her murder, which has so devastated our family, could take place in the heart of our community and why the agencies responsible for protecting the public from violent offenders could not prevent this awful event from occurring.”
The family of Williams has said that evidence heard during the inquest exposed “clear failings” in the mental health, housing and criminal justice system. In a statement read out on behalf of the family, they said: “We regret that the jury were not given the opportunity by the coroner to express their view on these issues.
“We hope that this case will highlight the need for better mental health care and lead to the effective sharing of information between state agencies, and that another family will not have to go through what families touched by this inquest have had to endure.”
Williams’s family gave their “sincere condolences” to Yemm’s family, adding it had been agreed that allegations of cannibalism, published in the press after the incident, were unfounded.
They said: “In participating in this inquest we have not sought to excuse our son’s actions, but have tried to understand them … Matthew was a very troubled man with significant mental health difficulties made worse by drug abuse.
“He had needed long-term support and treatment for many years, but this was not available either in prison or in the community … We were also surprised that the health board, Abertawe Bro Morgannwg, chose to play no part in this process.”
Williams, who had 26 previous convictions for 78 offences, was released from HMP Parc in Bridgend on 23 October 2014, having served all of a 27-month sentence for blackmail.
The inquest heard that Williams, of Blackwood, who had previously been diagnosed with schizophrenia, had been released with no medication, his mental health having stabilised in custody. He refused to accept support from probation or police.
After the conclusion of the inquest, Emma Ackland, assistant chief constable at Gwent police, said: “The last three years has been an exceptionally difficult time for those involved and I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone, particularly the local community, for their support.
“I would like to again extend my sympathies to both families for their loss during this tragic time … I would also like to pay tribute to all the officers involved for the professional way they have dealt with this distressing incident.”