Paranoid schizophrenic mother, 29, handed indefinite hospital order

Paranoid schizophrenic mother, 29, who laughed as she fatally mowed down complete stranger and then stabbed a have-a-go hero who tried to stop her is given indefinite hospital order

  • Rhian Beresford drove at and killed Stefan Melnyk, 54, in Acton in March 2020
  • The 29-year-old mother-of-one was suffering paranoid schizophrenia at the time
  • The Old Bailey heard on the day of the incident, she had smoked cannabis 
  • The court handed her an indefinite hospital order due to her mental illness  

A young mother who stabbed a have-a-go hero who tried to stop her after she ran over and killed a part-time bus driver after smoking cannabis has been handed an indefinite hospital order. 

Rhian Beresford, 29, was laughing as she ran over Stefan Melnyk, 54, causing him fatal injuries in Acton, west London on March 22, 2020. 

She had a young daughter in the back of the car as she ran down Mr Melnyk. After the collision,  she then stabbed Thames Water worker George Pantazi who chased after her as she tried to run away.

Stefan Melnyk, 54, was run over and killed by paranoid schizophrenic Rhian Beresford, 29 in Acton west London in March 2020 after the mother-of-one had smoked cannabis. She then tried to kill a Thames Water employee who tried to come to Mr Melnyk’s assistance

Beresford of Action, W3, pleaded guilty to manslaughter by reason of diminished responsibility in December 21 and was sentenced yesterday at the Old Bailey while appearing by video link. 

She also pleaded guilty to causing grievous bodily harm to Mr Pantazi as well has his attempted murder. 

The CPS also accepted her not guilty plea to Mr Melnyk’s murder. 

The court heard police were called to the scene at 12:50pm following reports that a man had been struck by a car. 

Mr Melnyk was rushed to hospital but died the following day. 

Detective Insepctor Garth Hall of the Met’s Specialist Crime Command (Homicide) said: ‘As the pleas entered at court indicate, this is a case where it is accepted that severe mental ill health was a key factor.

‘While this may go some way to accounting for the events of that day, it nonetheless remains a tragic incident and my thoughts are with Stefan Melnyk’s family as they continue to come to terms with their loss.

‘I would also like to once again thank and pay tribute to the members of the public who came to Stefan’s aid in the most traumatic circumstances.’

The court heard she was suffering paranoid schizophrenia at the time of killing.

The Old Bailey heard that Beresford had a smirk on her face after driving into Mr Melnyk

Judge Richard Marks QC handed her a hospital order without limit of time.

He paid tribute to the ‘considerable bravery’ of Mr Pantazi in ‘putting his own safety entirely to one side’ to help detain Beresford.

Awarding him £750, the judge said: ‘It was entirely fortuitous as events turned out that he was not seriously injured.’

Earlier, prosecutor Duncan Atkinson QC said Beresford drove her Vauxhall Astra ‘at speed’ on the pavement in Acton directly at Mr Melnyk on March 22 last year.

He said: ‘Using her car in effect as a weapon, she drove at Mr Melnyk, striking and throwing him to the ground.

‘She then deliberately drove the car over his prone body, revving the engine and rolling the car forward to crush him.

‘She inflicted very significant injury to Mr Melnyk which proved fatal.’

Thames Water personnel working nearby ran to Mr Melnyk’s aid as he screamed trapped beneath the car.

Mr Pantazi chased after Beresford when she got out of the car ‘smirking’ and saying: ‘I’ve got a knife.’

Describing the incident, Mr Pantazi said: ‘I heard a loud bang and the sound of someone screaming.

‘I turned around and saw a man under a black car screaming underneath the car.

‘We all screamed at the (driver) ‘stop! stop! There’s someone under the car’.

‘She didn’t stop, ignored us and then reversed over the man again, before accelerating and driving over him one more time.’

He said Beresford ‘sat in the car laughing and smiling at us, trying to rev the car forward’.

‘The driver started driving the car forwards and backwards over the man underneath. We have tried to lift the car off the man to stop it.

‘The woman looked at me and was smiling and laughing,’ he said.

Mr Pantazi told how Beresford got out of the car and ran away.

He chased after her but stumbled an fell over and Beresford turned on him armed with a kitchen knife.

‘She started to run towards me.

‘She did not say anything but she had a smirk on her face’, he said.

In the attack, he suffered a cut hand but his heavy work clothes protected him from serious injury.

Police officers arrived on the scene and detained the single mother with the use of a Taser.

Graphic CCTV footage was played in court of the desperate attempts to rescue Mr Melnyk.

The court heard Mr Melnyk was a carer for his father and aunt.

He enjoyed reading and visiting museums and galleries and was passionate about history.

His brother John Melnyk said he ‘spent his life helping people’ as a trade union representative and supportive family member.

His cousin Elizbieta Kaczmar said in a statement: ‘Every time I think about what happened to Stefan it makes me cry.

‘He was such a great person.

‘Always happy to help others.’

Nephew Patryk Jarosz said: ‘I lost a great uncle, a guide and teacher.

‘I was terribly sad and terrified when I found out what happened to him.’

In a statement, Mr Pantazi said he kept thinking about the incident and was left with ‘feelings of anxiety and fear’.

In mitigation, Miranda Moore QC said Beresford was ‘deeply remorseful’.

The court heard that even though the defendant had smoked cannabis, her psychosis was not believed to be drug induced.

She had been self isolating as her daughter had symptoms of Covid. 

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