Indefinite hospital order for youth who killed American tourist in knife rampage

Darlene Horton.

A teenager who killed an American tourist and injured five other people when he ran amok with a knife in London's Russell Square has been locked up indefinitely.

Zakaria Bulhan, 19, plunged a large kitchen knife into the back of 64-year-old retired special needs teacher Darlene Horton, and then "skipped" away with a "crazed smile" on his face, leaving carnage in his wake.

On August 3 last year, Mrs Horton was among many tourists on their way back to their hotels after enjoying an evening meal or shows in London's theatreland.

Initially, police feared that reports of indiscriminate violence at the scene of one of the 7/7 bombings could be a terror attack.

It was only later that it emerged that Bulhan, who is of Somali origin, was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia and was hearing voices.

Within six minutes of the alarm being raised, armed police swooped on the scene and Bulhan was arrested without a shot being fired.

Zakaria Bulhan.

After being Tasered and bundled to the ground, Bulhan, from Tooting, south London, was heard to mumble repeatedly "Allah, Allah, Allah".

Bulhan admitted manslaughter by diminished responsibility and five charges of wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.

Sentencing at the Old Bailey, Mr Justice Spencer handed him a hospital order with a restriction order without limit of time.

The judge described the killing as "a tragic waste of life" and said the psychological effects on the survivors would never leave them.

He told Bulhan: "It is quite clear that when you committed these dreadful crimes you were not in your right mind. You were in the grip of mental illness, paranoid schizophrenia."

The senior judge went on: "These were crimes which caused enormous public concern because, from their timing, it was feared initially that they might be the work of a terrorist fanatic.

"As it turned out they were not, although that is no consolation to your victims."

Months before the killing, Bulhan, a Norwegian national, had dropped out of college and in March last year he had been referred for treatment for his mental health due to his "odd" behaviour.

Bulhan had gone with his father to attend prayers at the East London Mosque, but had run off and was caught on CCTV heading towards Russell Square where he stabbed six people in quick succession.

Mother-of-two Mrs Horton was visiting London with her husband, Richard Wagner, a university professor from Florida who was teaching summer classes.

She had been out for a last meal with her husband before they were due to return to their home in Tallahassee the following day.

As they headed back to their hotel, she came across Bulhan moving around in an "erratic fashion" and wielding a large knife.

Bulhan plunged the knife so deeply into Mrs Horton's body that it went "right up to the hilt". She died at the scene.

Her husband had shouted: "This guy is trying to stab people," and chased him with his camera phone at the ready to take photographs.

Five more random strangers were injured, but went on to make full recoveries, the court heard.

Bernard Hepplewhite, 65, from London, had been to see a production of Showboat in Drury Lane with a Canadian friend while Australian tourist Lillie Sellentin, 23, was returning from a trip to see Aladdin at the Prince Edward Theatre.

They only realised they had been stabbed by Bulhan when someone shouted: "He's got a knife."

American Martin Hoenisch, 59, was returning from a restaurant in Covent Garden with his wife when he suffered the same fate.

Australian David Imber, 40, who had been to see Kinky Boots at the Adelphi Theatre, described the knifeman's "crazed smile" as their eyes locked.

The youngest victim, Israeli Yovel Lewronski, 18, was returning from dinner with her grandfather and began to scream hysterically after Bulhan sliced into her arm.

One of the firearms officers who took Bulhan down said he came "very close" to shooting Bulhan before he could hurt anyone else.

The officer said he was overcome with "relief" at not having to use lethal force, only to have the "wind knocked out" of his sails at finding out that someone had died.

Bulhan made no reaction as he was led from the dock to return to Broadmoor secure mental hospital.

More in this Section

Four accused of secretly filming hotel guests in South Korea

Shamima Begum family ‘starts appeal against citizenship decision’

May facing Brexit backlash at home as she heads to Brussels to seek more time

Australia moving 2,000 people from powerful cyclone’s path


Learning Points: Game, set, and match for toxic masculinity?

A Question of Taste: Derek Burke

Double act on a one-woman play

The early career and defection of Rudolf Nureyev who captivated Paris

More From The Irish Examiner