Man jailed for random axe attack on tourist in Sidmouth’s Connaught Gardens


- Credit: Archant

An amphetamine user has been jailed for attacking a tourist with an axe in a completely random attack as he filmed flower displays at a seaside resort.

Victim Mark Lightburn, aged 63, was part of a church group staying at a hotel in Sidmouth, Devon, and had gone on a pre-dinner walk to Connaught Gardens to admire the plants.

He was videoing a flower bed when drug-crazed Richard Weddell came up behind him and felled him with a single blow of a small hatchet to the back of his head.

Shocked passers-by went to his aid while Weddell walked away with the axe tucked in the back of his trousers, Exeter Crown Court was told.

It was the second time in the space of three months he had attacked strangers after mixing amphetamines with huge amounts of alcohol.

In the earlier incidents in March Weddell had punched a pensioner in Church Street, Sidmouth, threatened another stranger outside the War Memorial Club, and finally stabbed a passenger in the arm at the bus station.

Former head chef Weddell had started using drugs five years earlier and had lost his home and family as a result. He was living in a caravan in woods just outside Sidmouth and bought the axe to cut wood for cooking.

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Weddell, aged 31, of Bowd Corner, Sidmouth, admitted two charges of wounding, one of causing actual bodily harm, and having a knife in a public place.

All the offences took place in March and July 2013 but the case has taken almost two years to be sentenced because he has been under assessment by psychiatrists at Langdon Hospital in Dawlish.

He was jailed for a total of five years and six months by Recorder Mr Marcus Tregilgas-Davey.

He told him:”Mr Lightburn was staying in Sidmouth as part of a church group and came to Devon for a holiday.

“He was perfectly innocent and taking photographs in Connaught Gardens when for no reason and without any provocation whatsoever you came up behind him and struck him on the head with an axe.

“Fortunately, a passer-by was able to assist and he was taken to hospital where he needed five stitches. It is a matter of pure good fortune he was not killed or permanently maimed by your actions.

“I bear in mind you are very vulnerable mentally and were in a low place when you committed these offences but this was largely due to your misuse of drugs and excessive use of alcohol.”

Mr Sean Brunton, prosecuting, said the first two attacks happened on the same day in March 2013 when he punched 72-year-old Geoffrey Wells as he walked past him in Church Street, Sidmouth.

He went on to try to pick a fight with another stranger outside the War Memorial Club and moving to the Triangle, where he stabbed 21-year-old Cameron Chudley in the upper arm as he waited for a bus.

Mr Wells suffered weeks of headaches and a weeping eye which has restricted his ability to read. Mr Chudley needed stitches and missed four months work.

The second attack happened on July 2, 2013, and Weddell had already used the axe to attack benches, smash windows in a greenhouse, and damage the public toilets at Connaught Gardens.

When police arrested Weddell he had the axe stuck down his trousers and said he drunk five pints and four cans of lager. He also told police he was a devout Christian who went to church twice a month.

Miss Mary McCarthy, defending, said psychiatric tests showed Weddell was not suffering from a treatable mental disorder but was not well at the time of the offences.

She said he had enjoyed a successful career as a head chef but was living in a caravan after a stable relationship broke down.

She said:”He has been impressively frank about the amount of amphetamines and alcohol he had taken. He had the axe because he was living fairly rough and effectively cooking on an open fire.”

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