Teenager told child’s father 'I’m mad' after throwing boy, 6, off Tate balcony

25 June 2020, 14:22

Undated handout photo issued by the Metropolitan Police of Jonty Bravery
Undated handout photo issued by the Metropolitan Police of Jonty Bravery. Picture: PA

By Matt Drake

A teenager "smiled" and said "I am mad" after throwing a six-year-old from a 10th-floor balcony at the Tate Modern, a court heard.

The sentencing of 18-year-old Jonty Bravery is under way at the Old Bailey.

Bravery, from Ealing in west London, admitted attempted murder when he hurled a six-year-old boy - who cannot be named because of his age - from the viewing gantry of the Tate Modern in central London on August 4 last year.

The boy, on holiday in London from France with his family, suffered life-changing injuries.

Bravery appeared via video link wearing a white T-shirt and dark shorts.

At the start of the hearing Bravery entered, through his counsel Philippa McAtasney QC, five not-guilty pleas to an outstanding matter.

None of the charges were read in court, although the prosecutor Deanna Heer said the principal charge was for racially aggravated common assault.

Ms Heer said the prosecution, at the end of sentence for attempted murder, would ask for the charges to lie on file.

Prosecutor Ms Heer told the court Bravery was a "looked-after child" under the care of Hammersmith and Fulham Social Services at the time of the incident.

He was living in supported accommodation and had autism, she said.

Bravery received specialist care following an assault on a female care worker in October 2017, but was "frequently aggressive to staff".

He was also abusive and failed comply with boundaries. He lashed out at staff every "six weeks or so", she said.

Ms Heer said Bravery was 17 at the time of the attempted murder, on Sunday August 4 2019, and was under one-on-one supervision but was allowed to go out unaccompanied for four-hour periods.

He left his property around midday, bought an Oyster card, and travelled from his accommodation in Northolt to London Bridge, arriving at 1.10pm.

Court artist sketch by Elizabeth Cook dated 8/8/2019 of Jonty Bravery appearing at the Old Bailey in London
Court artist sketch by Elizabeth Cook dated 8/8/2019 of Jonty Bravery appearing at the Old Bailey in London. Picture: PA

Ms Heer said he went to the Shard and inquired about buying a ticket for the viewing area, but found he did not have enough money.

"He was later to admit that he was asking where the next highest building was," the court heard.

The court heard Bravery made his way on foot to the Tate Modern, arriving at 2.16pm.

Witnesses said he was "behaving in an unusual way" and was seen to look over the railings near where he would later throw the boy over.

Ms Heer said: "A male matching his description struck up a conversation with a lady called Carole Hunter as she looked at the view.

"He commented to her that it was a long way down and that he had vertigo.

"Ms Hunter thought this was an odd comment and moved away from him."

Two other witnesses, visiting the tourist attraction with their two sons aged 11 and eight, saw the defendant "smiling at the children", the court heard.

Ms Heer said the couple felt uneasy until he moved away.

The court heard the victim and his family arrived at the Tate Modern viewing platform at 2.32pm, having spent the day sightseeing and having a picnic by the river.

CCTV then caught Bravery turning towards the victim's family, with the boy skipping a little way away from his parents.

Ms Heer said: "As (the boy) approached, the defendant scooped him up and, without any hesitation, carried him straight to the railings and threw him over.

"The CCTV footage shows (the boy) falling head-first towards the ground."

Ms Heer said CCTV also showed the defendant backing away from the railings.

She said: "He can be seen to be smiling, with his arms raised. At one point, he appears to shrug and laugh.

"The footage also captures (the victim's) parents' disbelief and rising panic at what had just happened."

She said the boy's father initially thought the incident was "a joke" until he saw his son's distorted body below.

Challenged by the father, Bravery said: "Yes, I am mad," the prosecutor said.

The prosecutor said the boy's mother was becoming "increasingly hysterical" after witnessing the incident.

She said Bravery had "a big smile on his face".

The boy's mother tried to climb over the railings to get to her son, but was held back by staff, the court heard.

The court heard the boy suffered life-threatening injuries, and spent over a month in hospital in the UK before being discharged to a hospital in France.

He remains in a wheelchair, and will require 100% care support until at least August 2022, the court heard.

Following a question from the judge, Ms Heer said: "Whether he will ever make a full recovery is not known."

Deanna Heer said Bravery blamed social services when challenged by distraught witnesses moments after the incident.

The prosecutor said Bravery "sniggered". Asked why he had done it, Bravery said: "It's a long story."

He was also heard to say: "It's not my fault, it's social services' fault," with a shrug, the prosecutor said.

Following his arrest, Jonty Bravery was said to have asked police if he was going to be "on the news".

He said that he had been "seriously unhappy" recently and had been "hearing voices" telling him to hurt and kill people for the last couple of months.

He said he had to do anything he could to get out of his accommodation.

Ms Heer said: "He said he had to prove a point to 'every idiot' who had ever said he did not have a mental health problem that he should not be in the community."

He said he had been planning the incident for a long time, the court was told.

The court was told Bravery "laughed" when he was shown the CCTV of the incident.

Ms Heer said: "He said he wanted to be on the news so that everyone, especially his parents, could see what a mistake they had made by not putting him in hospital."

Ms Heer said Bravery had conducted a variety of searches including, "Are you guaranteed to escape prison if you have autism?", "What are the chances of death if you push into the River Thames?" and a web page entitled "How to get away with rape."

Bravery sat with his T-shirt pulled over his head, then crouched on the floor next to the chair with his back to the videolink camera as details of the case were read out.

The court heard the defendant admitted that he had planned the offence "well in advance" and researched the easiest way to kill someone.

The prosecutor said: "He narrowed it down to three possibilities: strangling a woman or a child, drowning a child or throwing someone off a tall building."

The court heard Bravery "searched for the most vulnerable child" at the Tate Modern.

Ms Heer said Bravery told medical experts he felt "undestructable" (Sic) and "on top of the world" after throwing the boy off the viewing platform.

A victim impact statement from the victim's parents, taken six months after the incident, said they had not left their son's side at all, other than for just a couple of hours.

They only returned to the family home on rare occasions to collect belongings.

Either they, or a grandparent, stayed with him overnight in hospital.

The parents said: "The act committed by this defendant against our son is unspeakable.

"We have been so scared of losing him that now it is impossible for us to spend more than a few hours away from him."

They said their son was unable to trust people, and said the boy "would like to slap" Bravery for what he did.

Deanna Heer said the victim suffered "serious and long-term physical and psychological harm" and said the starting point for an adult was 20 years in custody.

She said aggravating features of the case included that the offence was committed in public "before members of the public who were horrified by what they saw".

She said: "The defendant chose to commit the offence in the way that he did, at least in part, because of the fame and notoriety it would bring."

No members of Bravery's family, or the victim's, appeared in court at the Old Bailey.

Ms Heer said the victim was "fortunate not to die".

She added: "This was a whisper away from a murder."

The prosecutor said medics appeared to agree that the defendant suffers from Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and a personality disorder, both of which are relevant to understand his behaviour.

A report into Jonty Bravery's behaviour, carried out after the incident, found "his callousness and the striking lack of emotional empathy... is not typical of autism but is more typically found in psychopathy".

The prosecutor, citing the report, added: "The defendant fully understood the consequences of his actions and was capable of exercising self-control to resist acting in the way that he did."

Giving evidence in court, Dr Joanna Dow, a consultant forensic psychiatrist who works at Broadmoor Hospital where Bravery is being held, said she believed the defendant had a mixed personality disorder and struggled to manage his emotions.

She recommended Bravery be detained in hospital, rather than handed a prison sentence, so he could get treatment such as anger management and to learn social communication and interaction skills.

Psychiatrist Dr Dow said it was not right to "write off" Bravery.

She said: "Mr Bravery is 18. He presents as much younger than his age - he's really quite immature in terms of how he holds himself, how he reacts with others, his views of the world.

"I would be very reluctant to say there is no hope for change in his behaviour."

Dr Dow said she worried about Bravery's vulnerability in a prison setting.

The judge, Mrs Justice McGowan, said she will not sentence Jonty Bravery until Friday morning.

She said: "It is obviously not a straightforward case."