Mentally ill man detained indefinitely after killing mother in fire

4 September 2020, 15:20

The fire ripped through a flat on the Andover Estate
The fire ripped through a flat on the Andover Estate. Picture: Google Maps
Rachael Kennedy

By Rachael Kennedy

A former Network Rail administrator has been locked up indefinitely after admitting he killed his mother by setting fire to their flat in Holloway, north London.

Joel Ellis, 36, was given a hospital order without a limit of time on Friday, having pleaded guilty to manslaughter and arson.

He had earlier been charged with murdering his mother, 59-year-old Beatrice Yankson, but prosecutors accepted the alternative when psychiatrists agreed he had been suffering with depression and schizophrenia.

Having experienced mental health issues since 2017, the 36-year-old said he had intended on taking his own life in October last year, and did not know his mother was at home. He expressed remorse at the outcome.

Ellis, who had removed a smoke detector in the flat and used a container of petrol obtained days earlier, also suffered serious injuries when he was was found on the day of the fire unconscious and slumped against a bed.

Two Samurai swords, two knives and a blank firing pistol loaded with cartridges were later found in his bedroom.

The Old Bailey had previously heard that Ms Yankson had once worked as an administrator at Imperial College, and had become the main carer of Ellis' brother, who has autism.

Prosecutor Simon Denison QC described to the court how she had reported to others that "she was afraid that [Joel] was going to harm her."

Handing down the order on Friday, Judge Richard Marks QC said the defendant had "behaved strangely" but that it was clear he was suffering "very significant symptoms" of mental illness.

This included his paranoid belief that he had had to burn himself to destroy his body.