'Dad should still be here': Family of son who killed dad urge mental health services to step up

The grief of Garvey Gayle's fatal attack is still as raw as it was two years ago, his mum Amanda Brookes explains, as she spoke about the tragedy for the first time, Rhys Williams reports

The family of a man who killed his own father say it should not have taken the death of the "rock of the family" for him to get the mental health support he desperately needed. 

Garvey Gayle fatally stabbed his father in October, 2020. His family are calling for urgent reforms of emergency mental health services so no one else has to go through the pain they are suffering.

Garvey, 23, who struggled for years with severe mental health problems, was released from a psychiatric unit months before he repeatedly stabbed his father Michael Gayle and mother Amanda Brookes with a kitchen knife at his mum's home in Cardiff.

Father-of-four Michael, 54, was pronounced dead at the scene. Amanda suffered serious injuries but was saved by paramedics.

Garvey was sentenced under the Mental Health Act in July, this year, and a judge ordered that he be detained indefinitely at a mental health unit.

Sister Marysia Gayle told ITV News: “This should never have happened. Dad should still be here.

"The help that Garvey needs, he’s now getting. But we’ve lost our dad. It should never have been that way around. Never.”

Dad Michael Gayle was described as 'the rock' of the family. Credit: Supplied

“The authorities should’ve been communicating, joining up the dots, discussing this with each other and putting in place appropriate care for Garvey," she added.

Mum Amanda said the pain of losing her partner of 34 years at the hands of her youngest son in such tragic circumstances makes "every day a struggle".

"How are you supposed to live? Even though you wake up every day - I can’t even plan my days," she told ITV News. "I take each day as it comes. I can’t function some days.”

The family say that up to the age of 17, Garvey had been no trouble and described him as a "happy and sensitive" boy.

The family say Garvey was a 'happy and sensitive' boy growing up. Credit: Supplied

But as he transitioned to adulthood, he began to suffer with severe mental health issues. His health deteriorated to the point he would run away frequently, burn himself with cigarette ends and refer to himself as Jesus Christ.

“He was acting very unwell, calling out Jesus Christ, throwing himself to the floor, completely naked in the bed," recalled sister Marysia.

"He’d be sat in the room and there’d be a lit cigarette smoking in his pocket… I’d go ‘Garve, what are you doing?’," Amanda added.

Garvey first had contact with mental health services in 2018 and was later diagnosed with severe paranoid schizophrenia, Cardiff Crown Court heard.

It wasn't until January 2020 that he was finally sectioned under the Mental Health Act.

But, against his parents' wishes, he was discharged from a psychiatric unit the following June - just five months before he attacked them.

The family say they begged to get help for Garvey after he was discharged. Credit: Supplied

Following his discharge, he was accommodated at a YMCA in Cardiff but Garvey continued to refuse to engage with health authorities.

“It was a vicious circle of he won’t engage - until he engages we can’t help him," said Marysia.

“Well, if that stays the same there’s going to be so many people going forward that aren’t engaging because of their mental health. But then the barrier is that, because they’re not engaging, they can’t get the help they need."

Amanda was told her son would either have to go back to live with her, or he'd be put in the care of a charity for rough sleepers.

This is despite the fact Garvey had previously spent time in prison for battery and criminal damage after attacking his mother.

“I felt like I had no choice because he’s my son at the end of the day," Amanda said.

“And when the options were given to me, I just thought yeah, he can come home with me - in the hope he’ll take his meds, I’m going to have people engaging with us and helping us on the road to recovery.”

But Garvey continued to struggle. Despite multiple calls to the police, Garvey’s GP and mental health support networks, the family didn’t get the help they felt they needed.

A few short months later, the then 21-year-old stabbed both of his parents repeatedly in what was described in court as a "psychotic rage".

Garvey and mum Amanda. Credit: Supplied

He fled the scene and was found at a petrol station holding a Bible and introducing himself as Jesus Christ.

Garvey was initially found unfit to plead in court but after months of treatment was able to enter pleas of guilty to the manslaughter of dad Michael and the attempted murder of mum Amanda by reason of diminished responsibility.

The family feels strongly that the system of emergency mental health care urgently needs to change and are calling for authorities to act.

“It doesn’t take a genius to work out that these events that unfolded should never have happened," said Marysia.

"He should’ve never have been released in June - as a bare minimum.”

Michael would have been 56 this week and the family's grief is just as raw and painful two years on from his death.

Amanda and her partner of 34 years, Michael. Credit: Supplied

“I know everyone says ‘oh my dad’s the best’. But my dad, our dad, was the best," said sister Essence.

Marysia and Essence previously described their dad as a "man like no other" and "truly one of a kind" who was the "rock" of their family in a statement to the court.

They also highlighted to the court that "what mustn't be forgotten is that we've also lost Garvey. A son, a brother, an uncle, a grandson, due to the results of his mental health".

Amanda continued to ITV News: “I can’t do without him [Michael]. I don’t know how we’re going to cope without him. As a family, you know we are, we get up every day… I don’t know what we’re going to do.

“And with Garvey… I don’t know what we’re going to do.”

A spokesperson for Cardiff and Vale University Health Board said: “Our thoughts remain with the family at this incredibly difficult time. The case is being comprehensively investigated in line with the multi-agency review process.

"We are unable to comment any further at this time whist the investigation is in progress.”

An IOPC spokesperson said: "We have completed our investigation into South Wales Police’s response to a number of incidents involving Garvey Gayle prior to the fatal stabbing in October 2020.

"We are finalising our investigation report before being able to share our findings with the police force and Mr Gayle’s family. We hope to do so reasonably soon."

If you or someone you know is affected by the issues raised in this article, the following charities offer support:

  • Samaritans operates a 24-hour service available every day of the year, by calling 116 123.

  • Mind also offer mental health support between 9am and 6pm, Monday to Friday. You can call them on 0300 123 3393 or text them on 86463. There is also lots of information available on its website.

  • If you have an emergency and a life is in danger contact the emergency services on 999.