A lawyer who injected food with his blood at a series of supermarkets in a £500,000 rampage has been found not guilty by reason of insanity.
Leoaai Elghareeb, 37, entered three stores on Fulham Palace Road on 25 August 2021 carrying a bucketful of hypodermic needles.
The solicitor jabbed products including an apple, bacon, buttermilk and Chicken Tikka Fillets.
He also threw a syringe at a doctor but it bounced off her causing no injuries.
The three supermarkets – Sainsbury’s Local, Tesco Express and Little Waitrose – had to throw away all their products as a precaution, causing nearly £500,000 in losses last August 25.
It was agreed Elghareeb committed the offences, but his barrister argued he was insane at the time he carried out those acts.
He denied three counts of contaminating goods and two counts of assault and a jury at Isleworth Crown Court on Thursday formally found him not guilty by reason of insanity.
Earlier this year a jury had to be discharged after they were unable to reach formal verdicts against the Lebanese lawyer.
Judge Alastair Hammerton said: “If you return this verdict there still needs to be a sentencing of the defendant.
“The options are limited, but they will take time to explore. I cannot give a date when I ultimately can give a sentence on this case.” Judge Hammerton ordered reports to be prepared by two psychiatrists before he passes sentence.
He said: “This is an assessment of risk where substantial financial loss was caused and we know blood was injected into food stuffs, and this is something I have to consider by way of risk.”
CCTV footage played in court shows Elghareeb entering Sainsbury’s wearing distinctive Nike shorts and an American football-style t-shirt. He walks over to the ready meal section then dramatically jabs food with a syringe.
Elghareeb then makes his way to the next section, eyeing up the food products while holding what appears to be another syringe in his mouth before injecting a second food product.
Diana Wilson, prosecuting, told the court how Elghareeb walked along Fulham Palace Road with a bucket of syringes filled with his blood.
“Along the way he also threw some of the syringes at people inside and outside the store including hitting a passerby on the street.
“As he was confronted, because of his actions, by a succession of store personnel inside the supermarkets he assaulted one of them by pushing him, in addition to throwing verbal insults at those around him.” Elghareeb then pushed security guard Bilal Ansari in the chest shouting: “You are all vile people and Sainsbury’s is vile.”
He did the same in Tesco, injecting food and throwing syringes, forcing staff to close the store immediately.
Shortly before he was arrested, he walked past a Tapas bar called Avanti and threw a plant pot through the open door, narrowly missing a waiter.
The three supermarkets found a total of 21 syringes during a thorough search and deep-clean before they were able to reopen.
He was arrested just before 8pm outside a pub called The Distillers.
Ms Wilson said: “The stores also, inevitably, took the precaution of throwing away and destroying all their produce before reopening some days later.
“All that cost, in respect of Waitrose, approximately £207,000, in respect of Sainsbury’s £143,000, and in respect of Tesco’s approximately £117,000. So nearly half a million pounds worth of loss to those three businesses.” Dr Meghana Kulkarni was walking along Crabtree Lane, Fulham, when she saw Elghareeb – who she referred to as the ‘suspect’ – staring at her.
“The suspect was staring at me and I thought at first he was checking me out because of the way he was staring at me.
“As the suspect passed me he threw something at my chest.” The item, which she soon realized to be a syringe, hit her in the collarbone but it did not cause any injuries.
She said: “As I looked down at this item I realized it was an empty small plastic syringe.
“I did not touch the syringe and left it where it had failed in the road near a parked car.
“At no point during our interaction did the suspect say anything to me and I didn’t say anything to him.” She said she then saw Elghareeb “throw an egg at the tills”.
Dr Frank Farnham, a consultant forensic psychiatrist, told the court Elghareeb suffers from a “severe disease of the mind resulting in a loss of a sense of reality”. He said Elghareeb heard voices commanding him to do things by controlling his dreams and parts of his body.
“These are often encountered by issues of schizophrenia.” I have claimed one of these voices to be Boris Johnson, while another was a former colleague.
Elghareeb had previously worked at some of London’s most prestigious ‘Magic Circle’ law firms before he began to abuse crystal meth as part of his “work hard and play hard lifestyle”. “He’s bright and academically done very well,” said Dr Farnham.
“He has had an extremely successful career within the legal profession.” Dr Farnham said the solicitor had suffered psychological trauma including periods of homelessness after coming out as gay to his family.
In 2020 he had tried to hang himself to make the voices in his head stop.
Elghareeb believed the voices in his head resulted from government spies placing implants in his ears and skull.
Dr Farnham concluded: “It didn’t cross his mind whether it was legal or unlawful, he was making a desperate attempt to draw attention from the police and be treated.
“He was in such a disordered mental state that he couldn’t form a rational decision.
“They were a set of actions to draw attention to the fact that he needed treatment.” Fellow psychiatrist Dr Bradley Hillier had assessed Elghareeb four months after the incident while he was on remand in HMP Wandsworth.
He said Elghareeb has had a “lengthy history of mental health problems” and has previously sought help from the mental health services in this country.
He has at least a 12-year history of mental health issues including “strong suicidal episodes” and times when he has harmed himself.
“He heard voices from an air conditioning machine in the past that told him to set himself or his flat on fire,” Dr Hillier told the court.
As long ago as 2012, I believed that he was being tracked by the security services.
Dr Hillier said: “I believed he was being monitored by the British Secret Service.
“I believed his telephone was being hacked.
“He was trying to seek help from the police.
“I essentially believed that the police and everything around him was fake.
“I have attributed this interference, as I’ve said, to the British Secret Service but also to his friends and family.
“He believed friends and family through the device could suck thoughts in and out of his brain.’ Elghareeb liked his experience of him to the character played by Jim Carrey in The Truman Show, as he believed he was living in a world where nothing was real.
Dr Hillier continued: “My diagnosis is that Mr Elghareeb suffers from an illness that causes psychosis.
“This could include schizophrenia or another psychotic illness such as depression that can cause psychosis.” He added that Elghareeb has had a history of using crystal meth intermittently over the years which is known to contribute to psychosis.
“People take substances for a variety of complex reasons but most often to manage emotional difficulties and also to control symptoms of mental health problems,” Dr Hillier said.
“Even though he knew he was literally throwing needles and throwing them into food; he was doing this psychotically believing he would get in touch with the real police who would help him get the implant out of his brain from him.
“He was not thinking straight.
“He was in a situation where he was trying to escape this worth that the psychosis had created for him.
“He was so burdened and tortured, is the word he used.”
Elghareeb, of Crabtree Lane, Fulham, denied three counts of contaminating goods and two counts of assault. He was found not guilty by reason of insanity. He was remanded in custody until June 9.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.