Public schoolboy obsessed by 'zombie apocalypse' guilty of claw hammer attack on sleeping staff and students

21 June 2024, 15:06 | Updated: 21 June 2024, 15:42

Public schoolboy guilty of attempted murder after vicious clawhammer attack on sleeping staff and students ahead of 'zombie apocalypse'
Public schoolboy guilty of attempted murder after vicious clawhammer attack on sleeping staff and students ahead of 'zombie apocalypse'. Picture: PA

By Danielle De Wolfe

A schoolboy has been found guilty of viciously attacking two sleeping students and a teacher with hammers at a public school in Devon as he prepared for a "zombie apocalypse".

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The 16-year-old boy, who attended Blundells School in Tiverton, Devon, was found guilty of attempted murder at Exeter Crown Court on Friday.

The teenager was wearing just his boxer shorts and was allegedly "on a mission" to protect himself from a zombie apocalypse when he carried out the attack shortly before 1am on June 9 last year.

The boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, stood accused of three counts of attempted murder in connection with the attack.

The teenager admitted assaulting the two boys and the housemaster at Blundell's School, but claimed he was in fact sleepwalking.

During the trial, prosecutor James Dawes KC told jurors of the "obsession that the defendant had with one of the boys, an obsession with hammers as weapons, and an obsession with killing and killers and the killing of children."

Read more: 'Outwardly normal' boy, 15, who murdered teenager Alfie Lewis named for first time as judge lifts anonymity

Public schoolboy guilty of attempted murder after vicious clawhammer attack on sleeping staff and students ahead of 'zombie apocalypse'
Public schoolboy guilty of attempted murder after vicious clawhammer attack on sleeping staff and students ahead of 'zombie apocalypse'. Picture: Blundell's

Exeter Crown Court heard that the youth armed himself with three claw hammers and waited for the two boys to be asleep before attacking them.

The two pupils were asleep in cabin-style beds in one of the co-ed school's boarding houses when the defendant climbed up and attacked them.

Housemaster Henry Roffe-Silvester, who was asleep in his own quarters, was awoken by a commotion coming from the boarding house and upon investigation, he found a silhouetted figure standing in the two boys' room.

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The jury heard how the boy then turned towards him and repeatedly struck him over the head with a hammer, inflicting six direct blows.

Another student heard Mr Roffe-Silvester shouting and swearing as he fled the bedroom and dialled 999 - believing there was an intruder.

The two boys were discovered in their beds a few minutes later.

The court heard how the two boys had suffered skull fractures, as well as injuries to their ribs, spleen, a punctured lung and internal bleeding.

Both are now living with the "long-term consequences" of the attack but have no memory of the incident.

The defendant maintained he was sleepwalking at the time of the attacks - meaning he would not be guilty of attempted murder by reason of insanity.

However, after 40 hours of deliberations, the jury instead chose to find the schoolboy guilty of three counts of attempted murder.

Public schoolboy guilty of attempted murder after vicious clawhammer attack on sleeping staff and students ahead of 'zombie apocalypse'
Public schoolboy guilty of attempted murder after vicious clawhammer attack on sleeping staff and students ahead of 'zombie apocalypse'. Picture: PA

Trial judge Mrs Justice Cutts said she would adjourn sentencing for the preparation of pre-sentence reports, including a psychiatric report, and would pass sentence on October 18.

"I don't intend to sentence today, further reports are needed," she said.

"I would wish a psychiatric report. That needs to be a court-ordered report.

"I can say that inquiries have been made to find somebody who would be able to write a report. It has not been straightforward because of the defendant's age."

During the trial, James Dawes KC, prosecuting, told jurors: "The investigation has uncovered an obsession that the defendant had with one of the boys, an obsession with hammers as weapons, and an obsession with killing and killers and the killing of children.

"He had motive, that he had planned something like this, thought about it in advance, and he was awake.

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"He was using his iPad right up to the moment before the attack."

But one expert told the jury the boy would have been sleepwalking.

Dr Mark Pressman went on to describe the attack on Mr Roffe-Silvester as "a textbook example of sleepwalking violence" and said there were no features in the case inconsistent with sleepwalking.

He also told the jury that, as the evidence supported the view that the defendant was sleepwalking when he attacked Mr Roffe-Silvester, he must also have been asleep during the attacks on the two boys because there was not time to fall into a deep sleep between the incidents.

Relatives of the defendant also told the court about a history of sleepwalking in their family.

Another expert, Dr John O'Reilly, said he did not believe the boy was asleep as a sleepwalker does not initiate violence because it is triggered by noise or touch.

Giving evidence, the boy told jurors he remembered going to sleep before the attack and then seeing the dormitory covered in blood.

"I knew something really bad had gone on and everyone was looking towards me," he said.

"I didn't remember doing anything so the only rational thing I was thinking was that I was sleepwalking."

He said he kept two hammers by his bed "for protection" from the "zombie apocalypse".

The boy added: "I feel very terribly sorry for all three individuals because of what I did to them.

"I feel very sorry for everyone, the families and themselves."

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