A BIRKENHEAD teenager who killed his friend in a horrific attack was detained indefinitely under the Mental Health Act.
James Latham, 18, suffered from severe autism and had elements of a psychotic mood disorder when he battered and knifed his friend Darren Brewster last September, Liverpool Crown Court heard.
Andrew Menary QC, prosecuting, said Latham locked his 17-year-old victim inside his flat in Corporation Street, Birkenhead and while he was sleeping tried to slit his throat.
When he failed because he had chosen a knife with a serrated blade he pulled Darren off the sofa, strangled him and repeatedly stamped on his head and body with his steel toecap boots.
Mr Menary said Latham then took a second knife and stabbed Darren, from Wallasey, 17 times, piercing his heart and lung.
When arrested, Latham told police: “I killed an innocent man for no reason.”
In what Mr Menary said was a “shockingly frank and detailed” interview with detectives Latham said the killing was “revenge” after an incident between the pair some months before.
The court heard how killer and victim met years ago at the Sanderling Unit – a special needs school in Rock Ferry – and were friends for several years before a falling out in 2010.
They reconciled their friendship later that year and were together on New Year’s Eve when, Mr Menary said, Latham drunkenly smashed up his flat and a neighbour’s car after accusing Darren of spiking his drink with Ritalin, a psychostimulant drug.
Mr Menary said the two made friends again shortly before Darren was killed.
After his arrest Latham was sent to The Gardner Unit, a secure psychiatric ward in Manchester.
After reading their reports Judge Clement Goldstone QC, Recorder of Liverpool, ordered Latham – who pleaded guilty to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility – to be kept in hospital for treatment indefinitely.
He told him: “The sheer horror of the killing of Darren Brewster defied belief and understanding.
“Darren’s family have suffered a huge inconsolable loss and I fear no words can give them the comfort they deserve.”
Stuart Driver QC, defending Latham, told the court: “This is an entirely tragic case and many have suffered its consequences, most of all Darren Brewster and his family.”
“What happened that night and the reason why it happened may remain to some extent a mystery.”