Ferret-carrying knifeman locked up in secure hospital

Home Office knifeman, 31, is locked up in secure hospital for stabbing Government worker before walking away with his pet ferret

  • Dominic Hornberger attacked contractor Paul Reeves in Westminster in 2019
  • The victim, in his 60s, left with substantial wounds to his back and forehead
  • Judge praised bravery of onlooker Stephen Nelson, who chased after him
  • Hornberger, who didn’t attend, will receive treatment in a medium secure ward 

A knifeman who stabbed a Government worker outside the Home Office before walking away with his pet ferret has been locked up in a secure hospital. 

Dominic Hornberger, 31, knifed Paul Reeves, a contractor working for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, as he talked to his wife on the phone in Westminster on August 15, 2019. 

Southwark Crown Court heard the victim, who was in his 60s, was left with a 25cm wound to his back and a 10cm superficial wound to the forehead, along with other facial injuries.

Hornberger then approached a woman sat on a nearby bench, but was fended off by civil servant Stephen Nelson, who shouted at him to leave her alone.  

Mr Nelson then continued to pursue Hornberger, calling police and providing a running commentary until the knifeman was arrested, having fled the scene after sheathing his knife and putting it in a rucksack.

Images from the scene of the arrest also show a green and white pet carrier, used to house Hornberger’s ferret. 

Paul Reeves, a contractor working for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, was stabbed as he talked to his wife on the phone in Westminster on August 15, 2019

Images from the scene of the arrest also show a green and white pet carrier, used to house Hornberger’s ferret

Items left on the steps outside the Home Office building included a basket containing a live ferret, what appears to be a knife holder and a backpack

The court heard Dominic Hornberger, who did not attend the hearing on Wednesday, will receive treatment in a medium secure ward

Peter Clement, prosecuting, said: ‘Madeline Thomas was sitting on a wall outside and did not see him being assaulted, but became aware of people walking away.

‘At the same time the defendant approaches, stood in front of her and looked at the identity card around her neck and asked ‘do you work at Home Office?’

‘Although she did at the time, she was unsettled at the time and replied ‘no,’ [and] the defendant walked away.’

Onlooker Mr Nelson saw Ms Thomas being approached and shouted at the knifeman to ‘get away’, jurors heard.

‘The defendant shouted something at Mr Nelson, he did not hear what,’ Mr Clement said.

‘Mr Nelson saw the defendant walk towards a woman who was sitting at the wall.

‘Mr Nelson saw that and walked towards them, he shouted to get away.

‘He said ‘you b******s,’ looked directly at Mr Nelson, walked towards him before turning back to his rucksack and put it in a sheath.

‘He picked up the ruck sack and the animal container and walked away.’

Police pictured at the scene outside the Home Office in Westminster, central London, as they scour the scene following the stabbing

Southwark Crown Court heard the victim, who was in his 60s, was left with a 25cm wound to his back and a 10cm superficial wound to the forehead, along with other facial injuries 

Items including spray, cash, train tickets, keys and an Oyster card are pictured behind a police cordon outside St John’s Smith Square Church in Westminster after the incident today

Judge Deborah Taylor today praised Mr Nelson’s actions and said he should receive a High Sheriff’s Award.

‘Without Mr Nelson’s bravery and public-spirited behaviour, Mr Hornberger may not have been apprehended and may have carried out further knife attacks on strangers,’ she said.

Hornberger, from Birmingham, was charged with wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm and having a bladed article in a public place.

The judge found him unfit to enter pleas after hearing he suffered from autism, psychotic disorder and paranoid schizophrenia, but a jury found he did the acts associated with the offences.

On Wednesday, she made a hospital order under section 37 of the Mental Health Act, with a restriction under Section 41 of the act, meaning the question of whether he is ever released would be a matter for the Secretary of State.

‘This was an unprovoked, serious violent attack on a stranger, apparently on the basis that he worked for the Home Office,’ Judge Taylor said.

‘It is necessary to impose a Section 41 restriction for protection of the public from serious harm.

‘You attacked Mr Reeves with a knife. If a member of the public had not intervened, you may well have gone on to attack more.’

The court heard Hornberger, who did not attend the hearing on Wednesday, will receive treatment in a medium secure ward.   

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