The mother of a student killed in a knife attack in Nottingham last June has said she was “foolish to trust the legal system” after his killer was hospitalised indefinitely rather than jailed.
Emma Webber has said she feels “let down” after the Crown Prosecution Service accepted Valdo Calocane’s plea to manslaughter on the basis of diminished responsibility after he denied murder.
Her son Barnaby Webber, 19, who had been studying history at the University of Nottingham, was repeatedly stabbed by Calocane after he walked home from a night out at around 4am.
He was killed alongside his friend Grace O’Malley-Kumar, 19, who suffered 23 stab wounds while trying to protect him, just 200 metres from their student accommodation on Ilkeston Road.
After launching his deadly attack, Calocane travelled to Magdala Road where he “lured” 65-year-old school caretaker Ian Coates from his van and repeatedly knifed him in his chest and abdomen.
Calocane, who suffers from paranoid schizophrenia, then drove into the town centre and intentionally struck three pedestrians before he was tasered and arrested by police officers.
Speaking to Sky News, Ms Webber said: “I feel now with hindsight that I was foolish to just trust in our legal system. And I hate to say that, because I do feel let down.
“We were led to believe all of summer that it would be a murder charge for our son and the other two victims, and then attempted murder for the other three victims.
“It’s a massive, heinous crime. So we were ill-prepared for being told... that they were going to be accepting a diminished responsibility, which meant manslaughter. And I think that was the moment that everything turned.”
In a hearing last Tuesday, the prosecution accepted the 32-year-old’s plea to manslaughter rather than pursue a murder conviction, and he was sentenced to detention in a high-security hosptial.
The court heard that he had a history of mental health issues, and had been hospitalised four times since 2020 and was “unlawfully at large” after failing to attend court for assaulting a police officer.
A special review has now been ordered by health secretary Victoria Atkins into Nottinghamshire Healthcare Foundation Turst, where Calocane was treated.
During an interview with the Daily Mail, Mrs Webber said that she and her husband David had been staying at their holiday lodge in Cornwall when they heard a report that a man and woman had been killed.
After they were unable to reach their son on his phone, they checked his location on a phone tracking app to see where he was. “Almost at that exact moment it came up on the news that the incident had taken place in Ilkeston Road [and] Dave said, “Barney’s phone is in Ilkeston Road”,” Mrs Webber said. “My body just went cold.”
They were already on their way to Nottingham when police called them to inform them that their son was one of Calocane’s three victims.
“Everything started to go black. I can’t remember if I was sick, but I got out of the car, fell to my knees on the gravel and screamed. Dave was banging and banging the dashboard,” she said.
She added that she was placed on medication and attended therapy after experiencing her lowest moments of grief in the aftermath of her son’s funeral.
Outside court, the families of the three victims criticised Calocane’s sentence and said that authorities could have prevented the tragedy.
A spokesperson for attorney general Victoria Prentis has confirmed a referral has been received, and she will now decide whether to refer the case to the Court of Appeal.
Barnaby’s parents have called for a public inquiry into the case, and said they were “horrified” that there were no immediate plans to investigate potential failings that led to the tragedy.