Police looked on helplessly as killer struck

Douglas Lawrence
Douglas Lawrence
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POLICE officers watched helplessly through a Perspex door as a spurned lover repeatedly stabbed his former girlfriend to death, it has emerged.

Officers who witnessed the frenzied attack after racing to the Tollcross flat of tragic student Carolyn Ellis were later offered counselling to deal with any post-traumatic stress.

Carolyn Ellis

Carolyn Ellis

They shouted at Douglas Lawrence to stop, but the knifeman continued to stab his 32-year-old victim while the officers could only look on in horror.

The harrowing details of the incident were revealed yesterday when Lawrence appeared at the High Court in Edinburgh to admit killing Ms Ellis, who was stabbed 45 times.

After witnessing the knife attack, the court heard that when officers finally managed to get through the buzzer entry system, Lawrence had retreated into Ms Ellis’ flat.

When he refused to put down the knife, police sprayed him with CS gas before handcuffing him.

It was also revealed that Lawrence, 29, had told doctors about his fantasies of violence towards Ms Ellis before he killed her on January 17.

She died despite brave attempts by neighbours in West Tollcross, near the King’s Theatre, to save her.

The brutal attack left the broken tip of the knife embedded in her head while another woman was stabbed in the arm during the incident.

Lawrence had been accused of murdering Ms Ellis, but his guilty plea to a reduced charge of culpable homicide was accepted.

He also admitted assaulting Pauline Smith by striking her with a knife, struggling with Christeen MacKenzie and kicking her, and kicking and punching Peter Scolley during the struggle.

Lawrence further admitted attacking nursing assistant John Stewart on February 2 while he was being held in the high-security Carstairs State Hospital.

Advocate depute Michael Stuart, prosecuting, told the court that Lawrence had been diagnosed as suffering from a form of Asperger’s syndrome which frequently led to 
sufferers becoming fixated on a particular subject.

Mr Stuart said: “In the accused’s case he developed, from as early as his mid-teens, such dominant thinking in relation to violence.”

Aged 15, Lawrence spent six months in hospital after being diagnosed as schizophrenic.

In spite of his problems, he obtained an honours degree in philosophy from Edinburgh University, and seemed to be managing his difficulties by living a “mundane” life.

Ms Ellis suffered from borderline personality disorder as a result of childhood experiences and met Lawrence when both were psychiatric 
outpatients.

“In around November 2010 the accused and Ms Ellis formed an intimate relationship. This was the accused’s first, and only, intimate relationship,” said Mr Stuart.

Their mental health difficulties led to a split a year later.

Last November 11, Lawrence told of his thoughts of violence towards his ex-girlfriend. He was told to return to the hospital clinic three days later.

By then his condition had improved, but on November 17 Lawrence told a consultant psychiatrist about his violent thoughts and another review was fixed for February 12 this year.

Mr Stuart told how, on January 17, Lawrence took a bus to the flat in West Tollcross where Ms Ellis lived.

They talked for a while in her sitting room before she asked him to leave.

“He became angry and attacked the deceased,” said the prosecutor.

Ground-floor neighbours Ms Smith and Ms MacKenzie heard Ms Ellis shouting for help. They opened their front door to see Lawrence with his arm round his ex-girlfriend’s throat and punching her head until she fell to the ground.

Mr Stuart said Lawrence knelt over Ms Ellis as she lay face down.

He added: “At this point Pauline Smith and Christeen MacKenzie realised that the accused had wrapped a belt round the deceased’s neck and was twisting the belt to tighten it.”

Ms Ellis was yelling that she could not breathe as Lawrence put his foot on her back and continued to pull the belt against her throat.

Ms MacKenzie was kicked to the floor as she tried to pull him away.

As Ms Smith struggled to loosen the belt, Ms MacKenzie opened the front door of the block of flats to shout for 
help.

Her cries brought Mr Scolley into the common stair and he helped wrestle the belt from Lawrence and throw it away.

After punching Mr Scolley, Lawrence began kicking Ms Ellis and stamping on her head.

Lawrence disappeared into Ms Ellis’ flat and came out with a knife which he began swinging at Ms Smith’s head before gashing her right arm, leaving her scarred for life.

Mr Stuart described Lawrence kneeling and straddling Ms Ellis and holding the knife in both hands as he stabbed at her head.

He said: “The accused used such force that the tip of the knife broke off, later being recovered from the deceased’s scalp at postmortem.”

The attack severed major blood vessels and Ms Ellis bled to death, the court heard.

Police arrived to see Lawrence continue stabbing Ms Ellis before they managed to disarm him.

Lawrence sat handcuffed to a security officer in the dock at the court yesterday as the horrifying details of the case were read out.

Afterwards, judge Lord Uist ordered Lawrence back to Carstairs State Hospital, where he has been held since his 
arrest.

“You engaged in an awful frenzy of violence armed with a belt and a knife in the course of which you killed your former girlfriend and seriously injured another woman,” the judge told Lawrence, who is due back in court in January.

Relatives of Ms Ellis left court unwilling to speak about their ordeal.

But Julie Flowers, describing herself as one of Ms Ellis’ closest friends, said: “All I can hope for is that she is in a happy place now.”

She described her friend, who was studying reflexology at Napier University, as “amazing” and said she wanted to do everything she could to keep her memory alive.

No concerns raised by probe into treatment

A PROBE was launched by the NHS into the treatment that Douglas Lawrence received, following the revelation that he had spoken of fantasies of committing violence against ex-girlfriend Carolyn Ellis to doctors.

But it is understood that no issues of concern were raised following the internal investigation and no action has been taken.

NHS Lothian’s medical director, Dr David Farquharson, said: “This is a tragic case which we fully investigated at the time.

“However, it would be inappropriate to comment further.”

It is understood that the last contact Mr Lawrence had with the health service came weeks before he launched the vicious attack that ended Ms Ellis’ life.

It was revealed in court that Lawrence had told of his violent urges on November 11, and again on November 17.

A review was then fixed for February 12 of this year – more than three weeks after he took the bus to Ms Ellis’ home and killed her.