Man brutally killed with axe by cousin had told wife that day ‘he won’t hurt me’
A tree surgeon who killed his cousin with an axe in the street has been sentenced to an indefinite hospital order.
Ashley Rowen, 32, was twice previously sectioned under the Mental Health Act before he committed a brutal attack on Ryan Lowry, 36, in Trafford, Greater Manchester, on February 27.
In 2014, Rowen was detained with a delusional disorder having threatened suicide, and again in March 2019 after he seriously assaulted his grandfather who sustained a bleed on the brain.
Sentencing at Manchester Minshull Street Crown Court, Judge Maurice Greene said Mr Lowry in effect then became Rowen’s carer after he was “somewhat surprisingly” discharged within two weeks of being detained at a hospital unit.
The judge said Mr Lowry, from Marple, was described by those who knew him as a “born leader and inspiration” with a caring nature and who had clear concerns for Rowen up to his death.
He told the defendant: “There was never any suggestion of any animosity by you towards him and in fact you had a great deal to be grateful to him for.”
On the night he died, racing driver and foster parent Mr Lowry had told his wife Michelle: “Ashley will not hurt me. He listens to me.”
In the days leading up to the tragedy, Rowen behaved erratically and without reason had had various heated and angry exchanges with a number of people, the court heard.
On February 25, he messaged a friend’s wife: “Should I go to freemasons or smash someone’s face in?” and a day later sent a group chat message which read: “Should I join the masons tomorrow? I’m asking you all? As I will lick of (sic) someones head if you want to play.”
Mr Lowry persuaded Rowen to see his GP on the afternoon of February 27, who admitted he had stopped taking his anti-psychotic medication because it made him sleepy and put on weight.
The court was told he was on the medication from 2016 but took it sporadically and had been treated for mental illness since 2011.
Rowen, also known as Ashley Glennon, was given a further prescription and a community mental health team contacted him later, but he assured them he felt fine.
Later, Rowen attended the Masonic Hall in Urmston for his freemason initiation where a witness stated he did not behave in any way that caused concern and even gave a short speech.
A still concerned Mr Lowry went on to visit the defendant’s home in Russell Road, Partington, and shortly before midnight was seen running from the property chased by the axe-wielding Rowen.
The defendant struck 13 blows to his cousin who died from multiple head injuries.
Rowen pleaded guilty last month to manslaughter on the basis of diminished responsibility.
Judge Greene told him: “The plea reflects the fact had you not been ill you would not have killed your cousin. In my judgment your mental illness at the time of the offence means that your culpability is low.”
Psychiatrists for the prosecution and defence agreed that Rowen is suffering from paranoid schizophrenia.
He will continue to be treated at Ashworth high security hospital in Merseyside until a specialist mental health tribunal decides it is safe to discharge him.
The judge said: “That may happen many, many years in the future or it may not happen at all.”
Dr John Crosby, based at Ashworth, told the court he did not think there was “very rigorous monitoring” of Rowen by his community mental team before the killing. He explained that such services are “stretched and very busy” and did not believe Rowen would have been seen as a priority.
Dr Crosby added Rowen would be subjected to “significantly higher supervision” if he was ever released into the community.
Following sentence, Mr Lowry’s family said: “We all still struggle to understand why Ryan, who was such a beautiful and caring man, lost his life so unnecessarily and in the way he did.
“We have seen a report from the mental health trust that highlights many problems in the previous care and treatment of Ashley Rowen – including managing the known risks he posed to others.
“It seems that only now – after this horrific murder- will he be getting the effective care essential to ensure he will not commit serious harm to anyone again.
“We only wish he could have received that treatment beforehand. Because if he had, we believe Ryan would still be with us, and so much grief, suffering and trauma could have been avoided.”