Tenant detained over stab death of Sidmouth landlord
An elderly man has been detained indefinitely in a psychiatric hospital after stabbing a millionaire East Devon businessman to death during a row over damp in his flat.
Mike Bithrey, 72, who lived with his wife Helen in the hamlet of Weston near Sidmouth, was stabbed once in the neck during an "altercation" in Somerset and died later from his injuries.
Shortly afterwards police arrested octogenarian Anthony Andrews on suspicion of murder.
He was later taken to hospital himself where he was kept on police guard.
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This week a judge at Bristol Crown Court ordered the 84-year-old be detained without limit of time at a secure psychiatric hospital.
The death of Mr Bithrey, a father of four with several grandchildren, shocked the town of Honiton where his long-term business was based and where many of his family still live.
They declined to comment after the hearing.
But witnesses told the court they saw Mr Bithrey push Andrews away and then collapse to the floor, bleeding heavily, on the morning of June 21 this year.
He never regained consciousness and was pronounced dead by medical staff an hour after arriving in hospital.
After hearing written evidence from three psychiatrists, trial judge Mr Justice Eder ruled that Andrews was unfit to stand trial for murder at Bristol Crown Court.
The court heard Mr Bithrey owned 10 flats in the block, but Andrews was not one of his tenants.
Richard Smith QC, prosecuting, told the jury that Andrews had a long-running dispute with Mr Bithrey about damp.
"It is quite clear that this defendant has become utterly disenchanted and fed up with his plight, and when he saw the victim he went outside to challenge him and have another confrontation about it," he said.
"He has wrongly blamed Mr Bithrey for this problem."
Witness Steven Crossman described how Andrews, who was using a walking stick, had confronted Mr Bithrey three times outside the flats before fatally stabbing him.
Mr Crossman said he saw Andrews grab Mr Bithrey with both hands by the lapels of his coat. "I thought it difficult to believe what I was seeing – two OAPs scrapping," he said.
"Then I heard Mike say 'you stabbed me you b******'."
Mr Crossman said he then saw Mr Bithrey stagger towards a car and then fall to the ground, blood pouring from his throat.
Andrews went back to his flat and waited for the police.
When they arrived, Andrews told them the weapon was in the kitchen and added: "That's payback for the years of misery, 16 years.
"I felt as though a big weight has been lifted off me.
"I felt very contented at what I done, for the way he has treated me for all these years."
During a series of police interviews, Andrews told detectives that he "snapped".
The defendant, of Bridgwater, Somerset, was not present in court as he was too ill to attend the trial.
The court heard that he suffered a heart attack in October and has been diagnosed with early-onset dementia.
After less than an hour of deliberations, the jury found that Andrews had committed the act and stabbed Mr Bithrey.
Mr Bithrey was a well-known builder and property developer who owned several houses in the area under the company Bithrey Holdings.
He was also a town councillor in Honiton for a short period in the early 1980s.