LOCKED UP FOR 'LIFE'

A PARANOID schizophrenic who has admitted killing two Sunderland men after telling police "I had to do it" could spend the rest of his life behind bars.

Sean Crone, 26, has been detained in a secure hospital for an unlimited period of time after pleading guilty to the manslaughter of Ian Lawson and Simon Richardson.

Medical records revealed that just 48 hours before the double killings, Crone was given an urgent referral to Cherry Knowle Hospital due to symptoms of paranoia and nervousness.

The bleeding body of Mr Lawson, 24, was discovered near his home at Retford Road, Red House, late on Thursday, October 30, 2003. He had been stabbed 26 times.

Mr Richardson, 27, was found by two men just a few hours later, his body slumped in the communal doorway of a flat in nearby Rutherglen Road. He had died from massive blood loss from an injury to his neck.

On the night, police discovered a trail of blood which led to Crone's address in Rhodesia Road, also on the Red House estate.

Although he was not in when detectives knocked at the door, his family surrendered him to police just hours later.

Sheffield Crown Court heard that he was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia at the time of the killings, and the condition had worsened since and he was admitted to Rampton Secure Hospital in January of last year.

Opening the case today, Jeremy Goss, QC, said Crone had given various accounts about the two killings.

Crone told police in one rambling interview that he had killed the men because "he had to do it".

On the day of the killings he was seen in pubs in Sunderland firing an imaginary pistol, talking to himself, and into his beer.

Crone's mother Helen was increasingly concerned about his behaviour.

"The GP records reveal an urgent referral to Cherry Knowle Hospital because of his symptoms of paranoia and nervousness on October 28," said Mr Goss.

Police say there was a suggestion that, after killing Mr Lawson, Crone had gone to Simon Richardson for help before turning on him.

Mr Goss said Crone had a long history of psychiatric illness, petty crime and drug abuse.

"Mrs Crone went to his flat on October 29, there were cannabis plants all over the place. He went back to her house for most of the day, again returning home to feed his cannabis plants.

"His mother chased the referral up, but it was overtaken by the events of October 30 when he killed Ian Lawson and Simon Richardson."

Passing the hospital order on Crone, Judge John Milford, said it would mean he would "not be released for many years, if ever".

Friends and families of the victims shouted insults as Crone was led from the dock.

Killings that stunned a community

IT was a case that sent shockwaves across the country.

At 10.30pm on Thursday, October 30, 2003, a horrified neighbour discovered Ian Lawson bleeding to death in Retford Road, Red House, Sunderland.

He had been stabbed 26 times.

Just hours later, at 5.30am, two men on their way to work came across the body of Simon Richardson, slumped in a communal doorway, outside a flat on Rutherglen Road.

He died from massive blood loss caused by an injury to his neck.

Yesterday, 26-year-old Sean Crone, who grew up with both men, admitted their manslaughter when he appeared at Sheffield Crown Court.

Chief reporter CRAIG THOMPSON looks at how a trail of blood led police to Crone's door – and how the Red House community is still trying to come to terms with what happened.

IT shouldn't have been like this, says one woman as she stops to look at the flowers lying on the spot where Ian Lawson died.

That was more than a year ago, but her comments were echoed again today as people living in Red House woke to news that their neighbour, Sean Crone, had admitted the manslaughter of 25-year-old Mr Lawson and friend Simon Richardson, 27.

And while Crone may have been caught, one question keeps cropping up – "why"?

Both victims were well known and well liked in the community. They had attended the same school and shared many friends, not just in Red House, but in Southwick, Witherwack and the community beyond.

One 25-year-old who went to Hylton Red House School with both the victims said: "There was a group of us who used to knock about together and although we went our separate ways a while ago now, it doesn't make what happened to them any easier.

"We all knew Sean Crone, too. We had all been friends at one time. No one round here can believe what happened."

The deaths of the two men triggered a massive police investigation.

Inquiry number one, headed by Detective Chief Inspector Wes Gibson, swung into action as soon as Mr Lawson's body was found.

A trail of blood would help lead police to Crone's address in Rhodesia Road, where there were also signs of the "frenzied attack".

Crone, who is said to have been suffering from paranoid schizophrenia at the time of the killings, was not there.

But just after midnight on October 31 his family surrendered him to the police, and on November 1 he was charged with Mr Lawson's murder.

Another neighbour, who grew up on the estate, said Crone was a well-known character in the area.

The mother, who doesn't want to be named, said: "Everyone knew what Crone was like and people knew to avoid him.

"He had grown up in Red House and went to school with us all but he had made a bit of a name for himself as a troublemaker and we tried to have as little to do with him as possible."

Inquiry number two, headed by Detective Superintendent Barbara Franklin, got under way at 5.30am on Friday, October 31, after the discovery of Mr Richardson's body.

Without definite evidence to link both deaths with Crone – or rule out a connection – the two investigations continued to run simultaneously.

But that was all set to change.

Det Supt Franklin said: "We were following a number of lines of enquiry into Simon Richardson's death.

"But over the three days leading up to November 3 they were all ruled out and Crone became the only active line of enquiry.

"Then, on November 6, we received the results of forensic tests which linked Crone to both deaths, and the murder of Simon Richardson was added to the charge sheet."

Ian Lawson – known to his friends as "Corr" – had been a popular figure in the area and was known as a regular at the Hepworth and Grandage Sports and Social Club – Heppies – in North Hylton Road.

George Peel, steward at the club, today said: "Mr Lawson was a often in here. He used to come in with a group of lads for a drink. Everyone was shocked when they heard what had happened to the two lads.

"The only thing we can really say is that we send all our thoughts out to the families who must have been going through a very difficult time."

Crone's plea of guilty to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility was accepted by the prosecution at Sheffield Crown Court yesterday.

Today, Michael Boundy, headteacher at Hylton Red House School, which Crone attended along with both victims, spoke of the shock felt by people living in the area.

"The fact this person has been caught makes everyone in the community feel that little bit safer," he said.

"Whilst what happened was a shocking tragedy, it is a comfort to know that the person responsible is now behind bars and no longer prowling the streets and capable of doing this kind of thing again.

"At the time of the deaths, the pupils were all affected and stunned by what had happened but they have managed to overcome their concerns and get on with things."

Mr Boundy believes the people of Red House have to concentrate on moving on and putting the memory of the horrific deaths in the past.

He added: "This is a very close knit area where everybody supports each other. We are capable of moving on from this type of tragedy and I am optimistic we will do just that."