Port Talbot solicitor ‘stabbed colleague after becoming mentally ill during pandemic’
A “kind and generous” family solicitor stabbed his colleague in the chest after believing he was “out to get” him, a court heard.
Kevin Lane, 66, who ran a successful law firm in Port Talbot, South Wales, for more than three decades attacked his company’s director, fellow solicitor Rory McCreesh, with a six-inch kitchen knife on June 23 last year.
Lane at the time is said to have thought Mr McCreesh was acting against him and that he needed to do something about it, but those beliefs have since been diagnosed as symptoms of his mental disorder.
Swansea Crown Court heard Lane had been suffering from depression, paranoia and delusions brought on during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Carina Hughes, prosecuting, said during the sentencing hearing on Monday that Mr McCreesh and the defendant’s nephew Rhys Lane, who also worked at Kevin Lane & Co, noticed the defendant’s mental health deteriorating over a number of months.
No longer cope
“They felt that he could no longer cope and in August to September of 2021 an agreement was reached that Mr McCreesh and Rhys Lane would buy the firm, and the defendant would remain at the firm in a consultancy capacity,” Ms Hughes said.
She said on the day of the incident, Mr McCreesh and Rhys Lane had organised a visit to the defendant’s home in Baglan to discuss a legal file with him.
Mr McCreesh said Lane seemed “colder than usual” when they arrived, refusing to shake his hand or hug him in their usual greeting.
Once inside the house, Lane extended his hand to Mr McCreesh as if in offer of a handshake and then “unexpectedly and suddenly jumped towards Mr McCreesh, who felt a sharp penetration below his right pec”, Ms Hughes said.
“Mr McCreesh stated he was in complete and utter shock as it dawned on him that he had been stabbed,” she said.
“The defendant was driving him back towards the door and Mr McCreesh gripped the defendant’s arms while he screamed, ‘Rhys, he’s f****** stabbed me’.”
Rhys Lane also began struggling with his uncle pleading for him to put the black-handled knife down, saying: “Come on, we all have children.”
Once they managed to prise the knife from Lane’s hands, both men ran to their car and Rhys Lane drove Mr McCreesh to the emergency department of Morriston Hospital in Swansea where it was discovered he had sustained a four centimetre wound and bleeding around his lung.
Police officers arrested Lane at his house under suspicion of attempted murder, however the Crown Prosecution Service later accepted a guilty plea to wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm (GBH) due to his mental state at the time.
Mr McCreesh said in a victim impact statement read to the court that “there wasn’t any animosity between” him and Lane before the incident, and that he continues to suffer from nightmares and flashbacks.
“Kevin was a very good friend and over the years he and his family have been so kind towards me, and the business to me felt like a big family,” Mr McCreesh said.
“I still have a good relationship with Kevin’s family, and I feel sympathy with them as I know they’re also devastated and at a loss as to why Kevin did what he did.
“I’ve also had to take some criticism from people who believe I was to blame for what happened, or I must have deserved it, as Kevin is such a lovely and good guy. This has really affected me as nobody considered that I may have done nothing.”
Ordering that Lane be detained in a secure mental health unit, Justice Nerys Jefford said: “The facts of this offence are in any view very sad – both for your victim, Mr Rory McCreesh, and for you.
“The impact on Mr McCreesh has been understandably significant. He was attacked for no reason by someone who was a colleague and a friend.
“He has had to endure the stress of everything that has followed including the involvement of the police, the courts and the solicitors regulator, and the media attention that this attack attracted.
“Furthermore, he says that he was subjected to criticism and speculation that since this was so out of character for you, he must have done something to provoke you.
“I therefore take this opportunity to emphasise that that is wrong, and that he was a wholly innocent victim.”
Justice Jefford said numerous character references described Lane as a “valued member of his community” who was “generous to others with his time and his wisdom”.
“As one said, the epitome of a gentleman, as another said, courteous, kind, and respectful for and to all.”
“In other words, this attack on Mr McCreesh was wholly out of character for you,” she added.
“I have no doubt that it was the product of the mental illness that has since been diagnosed, which has included paranoid and delusional beliefs.
“I express the hope that you will be able, in due course, to return to your community and your family and rebuild your life.”
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