Killer who punched musician to death on bed ordered to remain indefinitely at secure mental hospital

Killer John Bass and, below, his victim Mark Austin
Killer John Bass and, below, his victim Mark Austin

A man with bi-polar affective disorder who beat Aylesbury musician Mark Austin to death has been detained indefinitely in a secure mental hospital.

John Bass, 50, has been in and out of mental health units more than 30 times and also had a number of convictions for violence before he killed 53-year-old grandfather Mr Austin.

Mark Austin Aylesbury murder victim PNL-141004-155553001

Mark Austin Aylesbury murder victim PNL-141004-155553001

He has now been told he will only be released subject to approval by the secretary of state or an independent mental health tribunal.

Mr Austin, who lived in Coxhill Way, died in hospital a day after the attack on January 30 to 31 last year.

Both the killer and his victim had been at a mutual friend’s home in Harcourt Green and had been drinking, when Mr Austin went to lie down in a bedroom.

Bass, of Arundel Green, then went into the room and began punching his victim.

One of the blows damaged Mr Austin’s liver and he suffered internal bleeding which killed him within 36 hours.

Bass was charged with murder but after being assessed and sectioned under the Mental Health Act, prosecutors dropped the charge and tried him for manslaughter instead.

A jury at Reading Crown Court convicted him of the charge on February 24 this year and a judge ordered psychiatric reports to be prepared on him.

Sentencing Bass, Judge John Reddihough said: “On at least 30 previous occasions this defendant has been sent to or admitted to psychiatric or similar hospitals because of his long-standing mental disorder.

“It is also recorded that apart from the previous convictions for violence on a number of occasions he has been responsible for violence towards staff or medical staff at the hospitals where he has been a patient.

“The court clearly has to have regard to his mental disorder and particularly to the potential dangers it may present in the future to other members of the public.”

Daniel Fugallo, prosecuting, had outlined to the judge what he called a ‘very full history of aggressive behaviour’ on the defendant’s part.

He explained that Bass’s first offence of violence more than 20 years ago, resulted in him being put before Aylesbury Magistrates’ for an offence of inflicting actual bodily harm.

In 1995 Bass was back at the same court for two more counts of ABH, with another similar offence earning him an appearance before magistrates in Hounslow in 1996.

In 1999 he was at Chiltern Magistrates’ Court, where he received a hospital order after being convicted of causing grievous bodily harm (GBH).

Yet in 2002 he was in court again for robbery and in 2003 back at Aylesbury Magistrates’ Court for two offences of possessing an offensive weapon.

Violent offences resumed again in 2004, when Aylesbury magistrates dealt with him for common assault and then in 2008 he was placed under a community order with a mental health requirement, for another offence of GBH.

Jon Swain, defending, said in mitigation following the manslaughter offence: “He contested it and is still finding it difficult coming to terms with taking responsibility for the death of Mr Austin.

“He didn’t deny he was responsible for a number of injuries.”

Mr Swain also pointed out his client was both large and excitable, with a forceful way of speaking, which could have explained some of his behaviour at the female friend’s home in Harcourt Green on the fateful night of January 30 to 31 last year.

The defence had not put forward a case on mental health grounds either before or during the trial.

Dr Robert Cornish, the psychiatrist currently treating Bass on the Marlborough House secure ward at Milton Keynes General Hospital, took to the witness box to advise the judge and to request that the defendant be able to continue where he is.

The judge reminded the court of the facts in the case, saying: “The evidence indicated towards the end of the evening Mr Austin went to lie down on a bed in the bedroom.

“This defendant went into the bedroom and attacked Mr Austin in what was clearly a most violent attack.

“He punched him a number of times in the face, causing him the loss of blood, nasty facial and other bodily injuries.

“In addition there were punches to the chest and abdomen.”

Mr Austin, who had a daughter and five grandchildren, suffered from cirrhosis of the liver and a blow to that part of his body caused the bleeding from which he later died.

The judge said: “Of course there is no suggestion that this defendant was aware of the vulnerable condition Mr Austin had.

“Nevertheless what this defendant was guilty of was a violent, serious attack on the victim.”

Previous mental health treatment had not worked because the medical staff had not had any power over Bass, it was suggested.

The judge said he was following the psychiatrist’s recommendation as it would be a more stringent policy than before.

He ordered that Bass be detained under a hospital order but that he only be released subject to approval by the secretary of state or an independent mental health tribunal.

If he were to be released, he would then be placed under restrictive conditions including notification of his whereabouts and random drink and drug testing.

Any breaches could see him recalled to the secure hospital unit.