Man, 45, sentenced after driving 500 miles to kill pensioner he had never met in Glastonbury

James O’Connor, from Hilltown, Dundee, Scotland, pleaded guilty to manslaughter by diminished responsibility in 2023. Credit: Avon and Somerset Police

A 45-year-old man has been sentenced to an indefinite hospital order after travelling almost 500 miles to stab an elderly widower he had never met.

James O’Connor, from Hilltown, Dundee, Scotland, pleaded guilty to manslaughter by diminished responsibility at Bristol Crown Court on Thursday 8 March.

Avon and Somerset Police were called to a property off George Street, Glastonbury, on Sunday 26 February last year, where they found 89-year old Frederick Burge dead at the scene.

Today (Tuesday 26 March) O'Connor was sentenced to an indefinite hospital order for the killing.

An investigation into Frederick’s death was launched by the Major Crime Investigation Team (MCIT) and, following a thorough investigation, O’Connor was charged on Wednesday 8 March last year.

The investigation led officers to Scotland where they tracked down O’Connor.

Medical evidence was then taken into consideration ahead of the sentencing.

The 45-year-old claimed voices told him to kill Mr Burge and Bristol Crown Court heard “auditory hallucinations” led him to travel from Dundee in Scotland to Glastonbury, where he stabbed the pensioner with a kitchen knife nine times.

Judge Julian Lambert said the defendant’s delusions, caused by schizophrenia, “suggested another person needed to be cut free in order that you might free yourself, and that such a person would be found in Glastonbury”.

The court heard O’Connor told psychiatrists the voices picked the house.

He then entered Mr Burge’s home and stabbed the pensioner several times in the chest.

Frederick, known to his loved ones as Fred, was described as a "loving, kind and charming man" who was the "best dad, grandad, great-grandad and great-great-grandad in the world".

His son, Kevin, paid tribute to him following the sentencing.

He said: “Finding my dad had been killed in his own home was the worst day of my entire life. It has caused me so much upset and distress.

“I cared for my dad over the past few years and caring for my mother who passed away six months previously.

“I feel like my life ended that day. I am not the same person I was before my dad’s death, and it has affected my relationship with my entire family.

"My wife lost her husband that day as every day is a struggle and I feel it is a battle. I am not sure I am ever going to get over this loss.

“My dad was loved by his family and his death has left a huge hole in our hearts.

James O’Connor killed 89-year-old Frederick Burge as part of a 'deluded' belief that he needed to be freed from a curse, a court was told. Credit: Avon and Somerset Police

“Although O’Connor was sentenced today, this will not bring my dad back. Today, we stand together holding our head’s high knowing that we have closed this chapter and got some justice for my dad.

“Now, we need to try and move forward with living our lives without him and learning to live with the loss.

“We are hoping that he is proud of us all in the way we are trying to cope with losing him. Dad is truly missed and loved by us all.”

Fred’s daughter, Sylvia, added: “Now this part of the journey has come to an end, as a family, we can start to heal and try to move on and dad can now sleep peacefully.

“Our family would like to thank Avon and Somerset Police for their continued help and support.”

Senior investigating officer DS Gary Haskins of Avon and Somerset Police, said: “The death of a loved one is heart-breaking, but for Fred to be taken from his family in such a violent way makes it all the more painful, and I would like to share my continued thoughts and condolences with them.

“I commend the hard work of all police officers and staff those involved in bringing Fred’s killer before the court today. I hope this result will provide his family with some closure as we pass the one-year anniversary since his death.”

When delivering the sentence today, HHJ Julian Lambert said: “Frederick Burge was an elderly widower living alone with his little dog for company. He was a much-loved family man.

“There is no evidence of any prior connection between [Frederick] and his killer. He was an entirely innocent, apparently random, victim of deluded schizophrenic.

“The family have suffered a terrible loss in the most harrowing of circumstances. The effect of what [O’Connor] did is brutal and devastating… The evidence shows a profound sense of loss and suffering which words along cannot adequately explain.”

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