How ‘quiet’ pupil went on violent hammer rampage at a £46,000-a-year private school

How ‘quiet’ pupil went on violent hammer rampage at a £46,000-a-year private school

It was the middle of the night at the prestigious Blundell’s School in Tiverton and all appeared calm as boarding children and staff slept in their beds.

But at just before 1am, the quiet of the late spring night was shattered, and the future of three students was about to change forever.

It began when maths teacher Henry Roffe-Silvester was woken up by footsteps in a shared bedroom above his boarding house quarters, and went up to investigate.

At the door to the dormitory, he was violently confronted by a hammer-welding student dressed only in his boxer shorts. Behind the attacker, blood was splattered across the walls and beds of the pitch-black room.

Inside, two students lay severely injured having been bludgeoned in their beds by the 16-year-old boy.

On Friday, at Exeter Crown Court, following a trial, the boy, now aged 17, was found guilty of three counts of attempted murder after the jury heard how he set upon the two sleeping students and teacher.

The teenager, who will be sentenced in October, was allegedly on a mission to protect himself from a zombie apocalypse when he carried out the attack.

‘He struck me on the head’

“[He] struck me on the head with a hammer,” Mr Roffe-Silvester told the jury, as he described being attacked by the teenager and then stumbling backwards before being struck again, and then again.

Six devastating hammer blows were directed at his head by the student, before the teacher managed to grasp the weapon in the corridor outside.

Walking back into the dormitory, the teacher then discovered in horror the two severely injured boys lying in their beds.

“I first saw one of the boys … the most immediate thing is the amount of blood everywhere,” Mr Roffe-Silvester said. “There was a large pool of blood on the floor to the left of his bed and there was a lot of blood on his desk and on the floor.”

He then found the other boy, also with blood on him, groaning in his bed.

‘I am sorry, I was dreaming’

In the corridor, the attacker slumped down in a state of calm and told another boy: “I am sorry, I was dreaming.”

The ferocious attack by a student, described as “understated and quiet” by a matron at the school, sent shockwaves through the respectable institution.

How was the boy, who cannot be named due to legal reasons, able to have a collection of hammers in his shared bedroom at the school?

He told the jury he kept two hammers, a screwdriver and a Swiss army knife by his bed for protection against a zombie apocalypse.

During the trial, Mr James Dawes KC, prosecuting, told jurors: “The investigation has uncovered an obsession that the defendant had with one of the boys, an obsession with hammers as weapons, and an obsession with killing and killers and the killing of children.

“He had motive … he had planned something like this, thought about it in advance.”

Mr Dawes said the relationship between the attacker and one of the boys, who had been his friend, turned sour in the month before the attack, with the attacker sending the victim messages including, “F***ing hate you, die.”

Then, on 9 June last year, he went to try to end the life of the boy as he lay sleeping in his bed. He would also attempt to murder another student in the same room, and Mr Roffe-Silvester.

Attack could have taken just a minute

The attack itself may have taken just a minute or so, Dr Ashley Fegan-Earl, a consultant forensic pathologist, told the court, but the multiple head, neck and leg injuries to the boys were devastating.

Both suffered skull fractures, with the pair living with the long-term consequences of the attack, but with no memory of it taking place.

A paramedic described the scene as like one from a horror film, while another, who had served in Iraq, said they have never “seen such a scene of carnage, with blood over the desks, over the walls and the beds”.

The attacker accepted he carried out the attacks, but told jurors he was sleepwalking at the time.

“I knew something really bad had gone on and everyone was looking towards me,” he told the jury when asked what happened. “I didn’t remember doing anything so the only rational thing I was thinking was that I was sleepwalking.”

Detective Inspector Dave Egan welcomed the jury’s verdict after the boy was found guilty of attempted murder on three counts (Devon and Cornwall Police)

“I feel very terribly sorry for all three individuals because of what I did to them,” he said.

But the boy’s defence failed to persuade jury members, who delivered their verdict after being told he had been on his iPad in the moments before the attack.

Detective Inspector Dave Egan, from Devon and Cornwall Police said his officers had worked tirelessly to prove that the offender had been fully conscious when committing the “horrendous attack”.

‘Showed no remorse’

And Helen Phillips, of the Crown Prosecution Service, praised the housemaster for “bravely” intervening and stopping the attack.

“The boy, who had a macabre interest in murder, serial killers, and violence, showed no remorse and naively thought that by concocting a story about sleepwalking at the time of the attack he could evade punishment,” she added.

Now, as the boy awaits his sentence from a judge, Blundell’s School faces the challenging prospect of fixing its outstanding reputation.

In the wake of the verdict on Friday, headmaster Bart Wielenga said he hoped it would “bring a degree of closure” in a letter to parents.

He added: “No school would ever wish something like this, but the conduct of pupils, staff, parents and the wider Blundell’s community throughout the past year has only been encouraging and reassuring.”

Now begins a long journey to recovery, perhaps the most demanding in the school’s 420-year history.