Man accused of murdering neighbour claimed teddy bear was telling him to kill

Can Arslan said he heard voices after knifing his neighbour Matthew Boorman 27 times but a forensic psychologist is ‘sceptical’.

31 March 2022

A man who knifed his neighbour 27 times and attempted to murder another said the voice of his childhood teddy bear told him to kill, a court has heard, but a forensic psychiatrist is “sceptical” of the claim.

Can Arslan, 52, fatally stabbed father of three Matthew Boorman on his front lawn in Snowdonia Road, Walton Cardiff, near Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire, on October 5 last year.

He then forced his way into the home of Peter Marsden and knifed him eight times.

Arslan had subjected his neighbours to years of verbal abuse and threats, and was on the point of being evicted from his property when he launched his attack on them.

He has admitted the attempted murder of Mr Marsden, and causing grievous bodily harm to Sarah Boorman, Mr Boorman’s wife, whom he sliced in the leg when she tried to pull him off her husband.

Arslan also admits a charge of affray and is now on trial at Bristol Crown Court where he denies murder on the grounds of diminished responsibility.

The defendant is being brought from Broadmoor maximum security psychiatric hospital every day, accompanied by six psychiatric nurses.

Tewkesbury stabbings
The aftermath of the killing in Snowdonia Road (Rod Minchin/PA)

On Thursday, expert forensic psychologist Dr John Sandford told the jury he did not consider Arslan to be mentally ill and that he did not need to be in hospital.

He instead found he had a personality disorder, which he described as applying to people with “a personality outside of the normal range”.

Dr Sandford said: “Sometimes you can help them but in some cases you can’t because that is just what they are, it’s their character.”

The witness explained that people suffering a psychotic episode or prolonged mental illness will tend to have a “package” of symptoms, including paranoid delusion and auditory and visual hallucinations.

He said people who are hallucinating are often very distracted, will respond to the voices they are hearing and find it hard to differentiate between the person talking to them in real life and the voice.

The first mention of “voices” in Arslan’s medical records came at 7.33pm on the night of the killing, when he told police “the voice said to me to ‘kill him’”.

In later references to the voice, he said it belonged to his childhood teddy bear.

“With forensic psychology you have to have a degree of scepticism,” Dr Sandford said.

He added: “When you get a voice on its own you are always very sceptical, but when you get a voice on its own after a serious offence you are even more sceptical.”

Ordinarily, the voices would fit in to the pattern of someone’s delusional beliefs, the witness said.

He cited the example of someone believing the voices in their head to be coming from a microphone planted in their teeth by the KGB.

Dr Sandford said that someone with personality disorder may hold fixed beliefs that are not true, but not in the way someone with a mental disorder may hold paranoid delusions.

He said Arslan “believed the UK was fundamentally racist, believed the police were wholly corrupt and believed his neighbours had been unfair to him, and that they were persecuting him”.

Matthew Boorman death
Matthew Boorman was knifed 27 times on his front lawn (Boorman family/PA)

Dr Sandford said that Arslan’s beliefs were rooted in reality – his neighbours had taken an injunction out against him preventing him from harassing them and he was facing eviction.

The court heard Arslan had a “grandiose” and narcissistic view of himself, claiming to have wealthy relatives, have gangsters in his family and to have killed 61 people during his military service.

Dr Sandford said that during assessments, Arslan had both claimed not to remember the incident, and also that the violence was justifiable.

“(The defendant) felt that these people had persecuted him, he felt he was a victim of the eviction notice and the neighbours, and he also saw it as quite reasonable to take the life of another person,” he said.

Dr Sandford said he did not believe that Arslan had no memory of the event, saying amnesia is usually only caused by a powerful blow to the head or heavy intoxication.

He added that “selective amnesia” – where someone represses a painful incident to the point that they can no longer remember it – is a disputed phenomenon among psychiatrists.

“It is extremely rare, you never see it in general psychiatric practice, and some say it is so rare it is not real, you only see it in offenders,” he said.

Dr Sandford said: “There is nothing to suggest that this man is mentally ill or disordered in some way, he is doing a series of purposeful acts that are goal directed, his goal is to kill Mr Boorman, and attempt to kill his other neighbour – it is quite clear how he is going about that.

“He is quite controlled in the way he is stabbing – he is stabbing (the victim), it is not frenzied, he is stabbing him slowly and deliberately in the neck.”

Arslan’s legal team argue that personality disorder is in itself “an abnormality of mental function” and provides him with a defence to murder.

More from Perspective

Get a free copy of our print edition


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Fill out this field
Fill out this field
Please enter a valid email address.
You need to agree with the terms to proceed

Your email address will not be published. The views expressed in the comments below are not those of Perspective. We encourage healthy debate, but racist, misogynistic, homophobic and other types of hateful comments will not be published.