A man has been found guilty of murdering millionaire hotelier Sir Richard Sutton in an attack that paralysed his own mother.
Thomas Schreiber, 35, from Gillingham, Dorset, previously admitted the manslaughter of his mum’s partner Sir Richard – worth £300million – and pleaded guilty to dangerous driving.
The trial at Winchester Crown Court found Schreiber guilty of the murder of the 83-year-old baronet and the attempted murder of his own mother, Anne Schreiber on April 7 2021.
The brutal attack took place at Sir Richard’s estate which he shared with the Schreiber family, with Thomas living in the annexe.
Using a kitchen knife he stabbed Sir Richard to death, before using another knife to attack his mother, stabbing her ten times and leaving her to bleed to death on the floor.
Ewan Galvin/Solent News)
He fled the scene in a Range Rover before police descended on the estate and was caught hours later by police following a 135mph police chase.
Thomas had become unhappy with his mother becoming the partner of Sir Richard and felt he had been treated unfairly financially compared to his two sisters.
He told the court he had felt a “loss of control” and that he was unable to “physically stop” the knife attack on his mother and Sir Richard.
Following the conviction, the family of Sir Richard said in a statement: “How could any family recover from such a sudden and devastating loss.
“We can never bring back Sir Richard but his spirit will very much live on, alongside the very happy memories we have of our incredible father, brother and grandfather.
“His values of being warm, generous and compassionate to everyone he met will be carried forward by future generations, and will never be extinguished.”
Sir Richard was last year listed at number 435 in the Sunday Times Rich List, with an estimated family fortune of £301 million.
The court had previously been told how Thomas was “consumed with hatred and contemplated murder morning, day and night”.
In a text sent around a month before the murder, Thomas told a friend “I contemplate murdering them all morning, day and night” the court heard.
Thomas was said to have became “incensed and fixated” after the millionaire hotelier failed to apologise for caning him with his walking stick, his sister Rose McCarthy earlier told his trial.
Rose said the atmosphere at Moorhill had become a “vicious triangle”, and added: “He said he wanted an apology, he became quite fixated on getting an apology from Sir Richard, then in the following weeks it hadn’t materialised, he was incensed by it, it consumed him.”
Ms McCarthy said Sir Richard then took a swing at Schreiber but missed to which the defendant punched him, knocking him to the ground.
The trial has heard the fatal attack happened on the eighth anniversary of the death of the father of the siblings, David Schreiber, who suffered from depression and a drinking problem and separated from their mother in about 2003.
The defendant had accused his mother and sisters of being “gold-diggers” after the family moved in with Sir Richard, while their father lived alone in a bungalow on the estate.
Ms McCarthy said her brother was “controlling” of their mother and added: “Tom was very protective of our father and felt very responsible to look after him during that period of time.
“Dad was drinking and was not always of a stable mind and as loving as he was, he could be toxic and a lot of that toxicity was fed into Tom about mum and Sir Richard and Louisa and I.
“We all knew how hard dad’s death would be on Tom because of their close relationship, so we did the best we could while grieving ourselves.”
She said Sir Richard became concerned at the defendant, who was an aspiring painter, becoming reliant on this.
She said: “It came from a place of concern for Richard, he could understand Tom not working if he needed help, he was consumed with the need to help Tom, what he couldn’t understand was the audacity of Tom to help himself to everything in the house.
“He could behave as if everything was his when he hadn’t contributed and all he could do was criticise.
“It became obvious to the family that it was becoming a vicious triangle, the three of them living at Moorhill.
“You had mum trying to keep the peace between Richard and Tom, and Richard taking it out perhaps a bit on mum that Tom was living there and mum not wanting to get rid of Tom because she didn’t know what he would do and she said to me ‘How do you kick out your own child?’.”
The court was shown a text message sent by the defendant to Ms McCarthy on the day before the killing in which he wrote, having mistaken the date: “Raising a glass to dad who passed away eight years ago today. RIP. You remember right? Your real father David, not the one who ‘bought you’ who you call your father… cupboard love.”
Ms McCarthy said: “Sir Richard was a great father figure to me, I was proud to call him my stepfather but I was not bought, as implied by this message.”
She said Sir Richard had offered to pay for her father to undergo rehabilitation for his drinking.
The court heard that without the Covid lockdowns the attack “wouldn’t have happened”.
Defence witness, consultant psychiatrist Dr Tim Roger, told the court that Thomas’ history of mental health had contributed to the murder.
He said Thomas has a “major depressive disorder” which was worsened by family arguments and the Covid lockdowns.
Dr Rogers said: “He was using coping mechanisms like meeting friends, then (because of) the effects of the pandemic those coping mechanisms were no longer there.
“He was isolated and essentially locked in this annexe in the middle of these family problems, it’s reasonable this had an effect on his mental health.”
The attack also happened on the anniversary of Thomas’ father’s death, which the doctor said could have been a contributing factor.
During the trial, Thomas said he had heard a voice in his head saying: “attack, attack, attack”.
Dr Rogers added that the defendant had not described experiencing hallucinations or paranoia and did not have symptoms of bipolar disorder.
Psychiatrist Dr John Sandford, called by the prosecution, said he did not think that Thomas had a major depressive disorder.
He said that the defendant had been given anti-depressants while living in Australia in 2017 but he had never been referred to a secondary service such as a consultant or a community mental health nurse.
He added that the defendant had visited his GP in March 2021 showing symptoms of “mixed anxiety”.
Dr Sandford said: “My headline conclusion is he doesn’t suffer from a mental disorder, there is no evidence that he has a severe mental illness like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, there is no evidence of that at all.
“He was a little bit of a lost soul, he had anger and resentment about his childhood that had never been resolved – he was unhappy but he didn’t have a mental disorder.
“He has a history of poor anger control and aggression within his family, it’s a possibility drink is a significant factor in this.”
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.