Man who killed 87-year-old mobility scooter rider days after prison release detained in hospital indefinitely

By John Mercury May 11, 2024

A man has been detained in hospital indefinitely for the “senseless” killing of an 87-year-old grandfather five days after being released from prison.

Lee Byer stabbed Thomas O’Halloran, who was riding a mobility scooter, in the neck and chest in Greenford, west London, in August 2022.

He later wrote repeatedly about a “Hunger Games” scenario in which he was required to meet “contestants” and then fight or attack, the Old Bailey was told.

The 45-year-old pleaded guilty last month to manslaughter by diminished responsibility and having an offensive weapon.

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Man detained in hospital over elderly man’s death

In a televised sentencing on Friday, Byer was sentenced to an indefinite hospital order by Judge Mark Lucraft KC.

The judge said it was a “senseless” and “savage” killing of a “much-loved” man with “no provocation and no rational motive”.

Judge Lucraft sent the defendant back to Broadmoor Hospital, Berkshire, where he has been receiving treatment since 1 August 2023.

Lee Byer. Pic: PA
Image:
Lee Byer. Pic: PA

Mental health reports found Byer was psychotic, hearing voices, and suffering from paranoid delusions and paranoid schizophrenia.

A report from one doctor described the ex-prisoner as a “very dangerous man” who attacked Mr O’Halloran with “no provocation”, the court heard during sentencing.

Before handing down Byer’s hospital order, the judge told the court how the defendant had 15 previous convictions for offences such as robbery, theft, drug offences, battery and possession of a prohibited firearm.

Thomas O'Halloran. Pic: PA
Image:
Thomas O’Halloran. Pic: PA

Byer had been released from Wormwood Scrubs Prison on 11 August, having served a full 12-year sentence for robbery, just five days before he attacked and killed Mr O’Halloran.

On the afternoon of 16 August 2022, a young man found Mr O’Halloran on his scooter after the attack, the court previously heard.

Mr O’Halloran – who was originally from Co Clare, Ireland – told the member of the public he had been stabbed and his wounds were clearly visibly, the hearing was told, before he slumped over.

Thomas O'Halloran heading home on the day he was killed by Byer. Pic: PA
Image:
Mr O’Halloran heading home on the day he was killed by Byer. Pic: PA

Despite being given first aid from members of the public and then police and medics, he bled to death at the side of the road.

CCTV showed Byer and Mr O’Halloran separately heading into a passageway, before Byer left with a knife handle in his hand and headed for his mum’s home.

As he made his way back to his mum’s house, Byer was caught on camera depositing a knife handle in a drain.

During the trial, the prosecution said that at the time of the attack, Byer was on bail over allegations that were later discontinued.

In police interviews after his arrest, Byer denied being the suspect and claimed he had been in his mum’s garden or the park at the time.

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During sentencing, the judge said that Byer had tried to “conceal” the “savage attack”.

CCTV images of the suspect were released after the attack and Byer was identified by prison officers.

The gloves he wore were similar to those issued to prisoners at Wormwood Scrubs – which the defendant was known to wear habitually.

He was arrested just after 1.30am on 18 August and during it, he said “Murder? I was in prison at the time”, the court heard during sentencing remarks.

Speaking on behalf of the O’Halloran family, Dennis Lintern described his grandfather as a “gentle, loving man who spent his life working and helping everyone he could”.

When he was killed, he had his accordion on his mobility scooter, the court heard, an instrument he was known for playing while busking, to raise money for good causes.

Mr Lintern condemned Byer for his “horrendous act of cowardice”.

He added: “He [Thomas O’Halloran] was minding his own business doing what he loved, playing his accordion to make people smile and enjoy his music which he had done for many years.”

In mitigation, Satyanand Beharrylal KC said that Byer displayed a “questionable reality” when he wrote his defence statement in 2023 referencing the Hunger Games about a violent dystopia.

Since then, he has expressed “regret” for what happened and “apologises for it”, the defence lawyer said.

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