Lockdown had ‘detrimental impact’ on mental health of man accused of multi-millionaire’s murder, court told

The 35-year-old has previously admitted the manslaughter of Sir Richard and pleaded guilty to driving a Range Rover dangerously on the A303, A4 and M3.

Published

The man accused of the murder of millionaire Sir Richard Sutton and paralysing his mother has described how lockdown “magnified” his deteriorating mental health prior to the knife attack in their “pressure cooker” home.

Thomas Schreiber, of Gillingham, Dorset, is on trial at Winchester Crown Court accused of the murder of the 83-year-old baronet and attempted murder of his mother Anne Schreiber, on April 7, 2021.

The 35-year-old has previously admitted the manslaughter of Sir Richard and pleaded guilty to driving a Range Rover dangerously on the A303, A4 and M3.

The attack happened at Sir Richard’s Moorhill estate near Gillingham, Dorset, which he shared with the Schreiber family following the separation of the defendant’s parents.

Schreiber said he had a “fantastic” relationship with his father, David, who worked as a translator, but admitted that he could be “very dramatic” such as firing a shotgun outside their home.

The defendant, who described himself as a “passionate” artist, said his father was a functioning alcoholic prior to the divorce before his depression and dependency worsened until his death on April 7, 2013.

Schreiber said that he became “confused and unhappy” at his parents’ split and described the process of transferring the family’s possessions to Moorhill from the family cottage where his father remained living as “hell”.

He said: “It was excruciating to watch him, it was chaos, we were coming and going to the house to pick up the family possessions and Dad was there in floods of tears, very upset.”

Describing the impact of the death of his father, he said: “I was devastated, I felt incredibly guilty and a great deal of shame. I felt we failed Dad as a family unit that was there to support one another.”

He said that the anniversary of his father’s death – on which the fatal attack happened – was “for me personally very important, I would always have a celebratory drink and sent a message to siblings toasting to Dad wherever I was in the world.”

Schreiber, who said he had 35 jobs in sales since he was 18, said he “had never been close” to Sir Richard but was grateful for the “incredibly” generous gift from him of £100,000 in 2015 to go towards a property as well as a £1,000 monthly living allowance.

He described how family arguments had descended into violence, including in the summer of 2019 when he had pulled his mother’s hair and hit her in the car after she called him a “f****** leech”.

And the defendant said that he was left “traumatised” by Sir Richard hitting him with his walking stick – which shattered in the incident – during a family argument in November 2020 which arose over whether his sister, Louisa, should be allowed to have a chandelier for her home.

He said this led to him closing himself off as his relationship with the rest of the family had hit “rock bottom”.

Schreiber said that the lockdown rules of early 2020 worsened his mental health, with him having previously suffered from depression while living in Australia following the break-up from the “love of his life”.

He said: “I was really struggling, every day was a continual struggle, suicidal thoughts morning and night, ‘What is the point of going on? My family hate me, I’m a failure like my father and everything is just terrible’.

“Before lockdown I would negate a lot of the negative emotions and a lot of the sadness by going to see friends, by going to an art gallery, by travelling. Lockdown put a magnifying glass on my mental health and shone a big light on it.

“It had a detrimental impact on my mental health because the opportunity to get out of myself and the house became in my mind less and less possible because of the restrictions in force.

“I had flights booked to go skiing in Italy, I had flights booked to Berlin, I had flights booked to Panama, all of that was stopped, home life was very much a pressure cooker and it just got worse and worse.”

He said that he carried out internet research into his mental health and added: “I was struggling to control my own thoughts, it was a distraction and it was unwelcome, I didn’t want these thoughts in my head and I wanted them to stop.”

Schreiber denies murder and attempted murder and the trial continues.