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Nottingham triple killer had history of mental health problems, court told

Valdo Calocane, 32, admitted the manslaughter of school caretaker Ian Coates and students Barnaby Webber and Grace O’Malley-Kumar (Nottinghamshire Police/PA)
Valdo Calocane, 32, admitted the manslaughter of school caretaker Ian Coates and students Barnaby Webber and Grace O’Malley-Kumar (Nottinghamshire Police/PA)

The killer of university students Barnaby Webber and Grace O’Malley-Kumar and school caretaker Ian Coates had previously been detained in hospital four times under mental health laws and was arrested in September 2021 for assaulting a police officer.

Nottingham Crown Court was told Valdo Calocane, who has admitted three counts of manslaughter and three of attempted murder, has no previous convictions or cautions despite being involved in incidents of criminal damage and trying to force his way into flats.

It also emerged that he was involved in an alleged assault on two colleagues while working in a warehouse a month before the “uncompromisingly brutal” killings.

The court was told on Tuesday that Calocane was born in Guinea-Bissau in West Africa, coming to the UK aged 16 with his family in 2007, having lived in Lisbon in Portugal.

Although he chose not to take A-levels, he later “studied well” and became a student at Nottingham University, graduating in June 2022 after completing a degree in mechanical engineering.

Barnaby Webber
Barnaby Webber died in the attack (Nottinghamshire Police/PA)

A brother of Calocane told investigators that he became aware of his sibling’s mental health problems during his degree studies – with the 32-year-old student “believing that he was being spied on by his housemates and by MI6 and that his family was under threat.”

During his opening of the facts of the three killings, which took place in Nottingham on June 13 last year, prosecutor Karim Khalil KC said: “The theme of (Calocane) being prescribed medication but declining to take it is a constantly recurring one.”

On May 23 2020, Calocane attended hospital believing he was having a heart attack, and was arrested after returning to his flat and causing damage to a door.

An assessment under the Mental Health Act 1983 was carried out at a Nottingham custody suite by psychiatric services, who concluded that Calocane was psychotic but that his risk to others was low.

He was then referred to a crisis team for review at home and he was released without charge.

Mr Khalil said: “Upon his return to his apartment, an hour later, however, he knocked down another door to a different apartment in the block.

“He was arrested for criminal damage, and following a re-assessment was detained under the Mental Health Act and was admitted to in-patient psychiatric services at the Highbury Hospital.”

Calocane was discharged from Nottingham’s Highbury Hospital on June 17 2020 into the care of the Nottingham City Crisis Team.

He was advised to take the medication for a minimum of six to nine months, and to seek medical advice if he wished to stop taking it.

Grace O’Malley-Kumar
Grace O’Malley-Kumar, also 19, died in the attack (Nottinghamshire Police/PA)

The court heard he was the readmitted to hospital for a period during July 2020, after attempting to force his way into a flat, having stopped taking his medication.

Anti-psychotic medication was “restarted and increased”, Mr Khalil said, and in August 2021 Calocane was believed to have actively concealed symptoms of psychosis during a home visit by a mental health worker.

He then evaded contact with the community team, and a warrant under the Mental Health Act was secured to gain entry to his property in order that an assessment could be conducted.

The warrant was executed on September 3 2021, when Calocane assaulted a police officer.

Mr Khalil added: “A bag of unused medication dating from February 2021 was discovered in the flat.

“He was admitted to in-patient services (under the Mental Health Act) and managed between September and October 2021.

“Thereafter he had limited contact with his community team, appearing confrontational and missing appointments.”

In mid-January 2022, the defendant was involved in an altercation with a flat-mate and a mental health assessment concluded that he could continue to be treated in the community.

At the end of January 2022 Calocane was again admitted as an inpatient under the Mental Health Act, being discharged on February 24.

He was then reviewed in March 2022 in an outpatient clinic and in July 2022 claimed, it is believed falsely, that he was not in the country.

Mr Justice Turner, hearing the Crown’s opening ahead of sentencing, was told Calocane was recorded as not being at home in August 2022 following a visit to his discharge address, with a resident saying no-one of that name lived there.

It also emerged at the hearing that in early May 2023 – around five weeks before he killed three people – Calocane started working in a warehouse in Kegworth, Leicestershire, where he attacked two employees.

Following that incident, efforts were made to contact Calocane to tell him that he was not allowed back on the premises, but he did not respond.

For approximately six months before the multiple stabbing and van attacks, Calocane was living in a multi-occupancy house in Burford Road, Forest Fields, Nottingham, where a housemate found him to be “somewhat distant, never speaking unless spoken to and only then giving short responses”.

He was also noted to be using the same plate but never cleaned it.