MENTAL health care on Merseyside is failing because of a lack of cash and staff, it was claimed last night.

Community care came under the spotlight yesterday after two former Mersey Care Trust patients were locked up for life in as many days.

Schizophrenic Mark Corner, 26, of St Domingo Vale, Everton, was yesterday ordered to be detained indefinitely after admitting murdering two prostitutes in his flat.

On Tuesday Alan McDonald, 56, of Huntly Road, Fairfield, was jailed for life after holding his psychiatrist, Dr Robert Higgo, hostage at gunpoint for 17 hours after a home visit.

Mersey Care Trust launched an inquiry into both incidents. Another NHS rust will also hold an external inquiry into the Corner killings.

Hoylake-based solicitor Peter Edwards has represented clients with mental illness for 32 years.

He said community care was the right way to look after mental health patients but that it was "chronically under-funded".

He said: "People are often desperate for help but cannot get it."

Mr Edwards represented Michael Abram, the schizophrenic who attacked Beatle George Harrison and his wife Olivia in their Oxfordshire home.

He said Abram was let down by the system and similar incidents could happen again.

Care in the community started in the late 1960s when Victorian asylums were replaced with community-based care.

The policy was accelerated under Margaret Thatcher and has been supported by New Labour.

But community care has come under increasing criticism because of high-profile killings and assaults involving mental health care patients.

In July 2001, schizophrenic Andrew Kernan was shot dead by Merseyside Police after brandishing a samurai sword, while 10 years ago Bootle MP Joe Benton received neck injuries after a mentally ill constituent attacked him in his home.

The Zito Trust was formed in 1994 after student Jonathan Zito was killed by schizophrenic Christopher Clunis in Finsbury Park, London.

Trust director Michael Howlett last night said he was shocked to hear of the McDonald and Corner cases.

He said: "We have serious concerns about community care. In these two cases, it seems there has been a severe breakdown in care which has to be investigated."

Paul Corry, a spokesman for mental health charity Rethink said care in the community broke down whenever there was a shortage of trained professionals, or when patients took alcohol or drugs in addition to their prescribed medication.

A spokesman for the Mersey Care NHS Trust last night admitted there were problems ensuring that patients stuck to their treatment programmes.

She said: "At any one time, the Trust probably have about 10,000 service users."


A PARANOID schizophrenic who killed two prostitutes and dismembered their bodies was yesterday locked up indefinitely.

Mark Corner, 26, who attacked the women and dumped their butchered remains in bin bags, was described by a Liverpool Crown Court judge as a danger to young women.

Corner had pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of 25-year-old Pauline Stephen and 19-year-old Hanane Parry.

Judge Mr Justice Gage imposed a hospital order, which means Corner could remain in Liverpool's high security Ashworth Hospital permanently.

His release can only be determined by the Home Secretary and not by doctors.

The judge told Corner, who sat in the dock flanked by four psychiatric nurses: "These were truly horrendous crimes, you caused the death of two young women - the details are gruesome in the extreme and have no doubt caused immense distress to the relatives of those young women.

"I am satisfied you are very dangerous, in particular where young women are concerned.

"There is a very clear risk that if you are at liberty you will commit further offences."

Prosecutor David Steer QC had told the court that

both women worked as prostitutes in the Everton area.

He said Miss Parry, who was originally from Chester, left to go work on July 11, but did not return home.

The following day, mother-of-one Miss Stephen, who used the name Porsche, left her home in Skelmersdale in her white Ford Escort.

Two days later, she was reported to the police as missing and her car was found abandoned.

Mr Steer told the court that on July 20, police officers found a bin liner containing dismembered body parts at the back of Corner's flat in St Domingo Vale, Everton.

He said: "The police were completely unaware there were in fact two bodies and not just one."

The court heard that police officers suspected one of the victims was Miss Stephen, but had to identify Miss Parry by her fingerprints as her disappearance had not bee reported.

Details of the gruesome discovery were released and Corner's brother, Ian, went to Crosby police station and told them Corner told him he had killed two prostitutes and dismembered them.

David Aubrey QC, defending, told the court Corner suffers from paranoid schizophrenia and heard voices in his head.