Former prisoner locked up indefinitely for killing mobility scooter rider

A Hunger Games-obsessed ex-prisoner has been locked up indefinitely for the “senseless” killing of an elderly mobility scooter rider five days after his release.

Lee Byer was psychotic when he stabbed 87-year-old Thomas O’Halloran in the neck and chest in Greenford, west London, in August 2022.

He later wrote repeatedly about a “Hunger Games” scenario in which he was required to meet “contestants” and then fight or attack, the Old Bailey was told.

Five days before the killing, Byer, who had a string of convictions, was released from Wormwood Scrubs, having served a full 12-year sentence for robbery.

Prosecutor Gareth Patterson KC told the court: “Technically, he was on bail when he was released in August 2022, so these offences were committed while on bail. Some months later that allegation was discontinued.”

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Thomas O’Halloran, 87, who was fatally stabbed in Greenford, in west London (Met Police/PA)

“From accounts from his mother and brother, there was odd behaviour but at that stage the full nature and degree of his mental illness had not been diagnosed.”

The 45-year-old, of no fixed address, denied murder but pleaded guilty to the lesser offence of manslaughter by diminished responsibility and having an offensive weapon.

The pleas were accepted by the prosecution after mental health reports found Byer was psychotic, hearing voices, suffering from paranoid delusions and paranoid schizophrenia.

In a televised sentencing on Friday, Judge Mark Lucraft KC handed him a hospital order with restrictions.

The judge said it was a “senseless” and “savage” killing of a “much-loved” man with “no provocation and no rational motive”.

He noted concerns over Byer’s mental health were raised in 2020 when there were reports he was hearing voices and tried to take his own life.

On behalf of the O’Halloran family, grandson Dennis Lintern, condemned Byer for his “horrendous act of cowardice”.

Mr Lintern described his grandfather as a “gentle, loving, man who spent his life working and helping everyone he could”.

He said: “He was minding his own business doing what he loved, playing his accordion to make people smile and enjoy his music which he had done for many years.”

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Court artist sketch of Lee Byer during an earlier hearing at Willesden Magistrates’ Court in north-west London (Elizabeth Cook/PA)

In mitigation, Satyanand Beharrylal KC said that Byer displayed a “questionable reality” when he wrote his defence statement in 2023 referencing the Hollywood series about a violent dystopia.

Since then, he has expressed “regret” for what happened and “apologises for it”, the defence lawyer said.

Mr O’Halloran was originally from Co Clare in Ireland and was well known in the Greenford community where he busked to raise charity funds for Ukraine.

On the afternoon of August 16 2022, he was seen on CCTV footage waving from his mobility scooter as he headed home with his accordion and Ukraine collection box.

Mr Patterson said: “His path took him past this defendant, who was walking the streets in possession of a large knife.

“Mr O’Halloran, for his part, was unarmed and of course, at the age of 87, he in no way posed any kind of threat to anyone.

“Yet Tom O’Halloran was attacked and stabbed repeatedly by the defendant.”

Mr O’Halloran suffered two stab wounds to the heart, one to the back and three to the neck.

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CCTV of Lee Byer seen running from the scene of the stabbing of Thomas O’Halloran (Met Police/PA)

A young man who happened to be passing saw Mr O’Halloran trundling forward in his scooter before he came to a stop and slumped in his chair.

The victim was able to tell the young man that he had been stabbed.

Police and paramedics rushed to the scene, but despite their best efforts Mr O’Halloran bled to death at the side of the road.

Mr Patterson said that money in the victim’s charity collection box and wallet were untouched.

Investigators found CCTV footage of Mr O’Halloran, a retired maintenance man, and Byer heading towards the passageway where the attack happened.

When Byer emerged from the passageway, he had a bread knife in his gloved hand.

As he made his way back to his mother’s house, Byer was caught on camera depositing a knife handle in a drain.

Forensic analysis found the victim’s blood on the handle, although the blade was never found.

CCTV images of the suspect were released in the media and Byer was identified by prison officers.

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Members of the Irish community gathered in Greenford, west London, to pray and lay flowers after Thomas O’Halloran was killed (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

The gloves Byer wore during the attack were similar to those issued to prisoners at Wormwood Scrubs which the defendant was known to habitually wear.

After being arrested at his mother’s house on August 18, Byer told police: “I was in prison, I was in prison, so it is impossible what you are talking about.”

Receipts for clothes worn by the defendant were found at his home as well as a knife set with handles similar to the one found in the drain.

The burnt remains of Byer’s yellow and blue trainers were found in a fire in the garden.

In police interviews, he denied being the suspect caught on CCTV and claimed it was a case of “mistaken identity”.

Byer had 15 previous convictions for 30 offences dating back to when he was aged 13.

They included a robbery at a jeweller’s with hammers, supply of A drugs offences and having a prohibited firearm.

He was later convicted of harassment, battery and breaching a restraining order, leading to his recall to prison in 2020.

It meant that he had to serve the entirety of his 2021 sentence of 12 years for robbery and was released on August 11 2022.