Farm worker detained indefinitely for killing animal lover

Kate Bevan, who worked at a veterinary practice, had volunteered at the farm for five years (Devon and Cornwall Police/PA)
Kate Bevan, who worked at a veterinary practice, had volunteered at the farm for five years (Devon and Cornwall Police/PA)
17:11pm, Fri 13 Nov 2020
CBAD8A00-D2B9-4E0E-ADDF-D0366C357A34 Created with sketchtool. E9A4AA46-7DC3-48B8-9CE2-D75274FB8967 Created with sketchtool. 65CCAE04-4748-4D0F-8696-A91D8EB3E7DC Created with sketchtool.

A mentally ill man who strangled an animal lover to death and left her body in a cattle pen at a farm has been detained indefinitely at Broadmoor.

Luigi Palmas, 27, killed Katherine Bevan, known to her family and friends as Kate, during a row at the farm where they were both volunteers.

The 53-year-old was discovered dead on the evening of January 3 this year at Combe Farm in Gittisham, near Honiton, Devon hours after going missing.

Luigi Palmas

Exeter Crown Court heard police initially treated her death as an accident because she was found in a cattle pen alongside two cows.

It was only when a post-mortem examination was carried out by a pathologist 15 days later that Ms Bevan’s death was treated as murder.

Meanwhile, Palmas had been sectioned under the Mental Health Act because of his increasingly bizarre behaviour.

The court heard Ms Bevan, who worked at a veterinary surgery, had volunteered at the farm for five years looking after the 100-strong herd and had written a book about two of the calves.

Palmas, who was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and had a history of mental illness, had arrived in the UK on December 5 last year to work at the farm in return for free food and lodgings.

Richard Smith QC, prosecuting, said the reasons for the attack on Ms Bevan would never be known.

“The defendant was later to tell the doctors who were treating him that he waited in the shadows in the night in question and attacked his victim,” he said.

“Quite why it was he had decided to do so, perhaps we will never know.”

Kate Bevan, who worked at a veterinary practice, had volunteered at the farm for five years (Devon and Cornwall Police/PA)

The court heard Ms Bevan was last seen at around 6.30pm on the night she died tending to the cows and did not appear for dinner.

“This defendant had, on occasions, fallen into dispute with the victim on previous occasions since his arrival,” Mr Smith said.

“Various farm workers had seen or heard of altercations between the pair that largely seemed to have concerned the manner in which the cattle at the farm were dealt with.

“It is clear, as the new year started, she was not happy in the company of the defendant and clearly was uncomfortable with him.”

Her body was later found in the cattle pen and the police were alerted, with officers treating it as a tragic accident.

Two days later, fellow farm workers started to notice Palmas’s “strange and hostile behaviour” and called the police.

“In due course he was seen to have covered himself in manure and was walking around the farm naked and refusing to wash,” Mr Smith said.

On January 6, the police were contacted and when they arrived they found Palmas running around the paddock barefoot. He was detained under the Mental Health Act.

Following the post-mortem examination, Palmas was arrested on January 20 on suspicion of murder.

Hours earlier he had assaulted a fellow patient Nicholas Harris, who he believed was a paedophile. He had also stabbed an interpreter in the leg with a pencil.

Kate Bevan 3

While at the police station, Palmas told a doctor: “I killed a woman. Yeah, she had a problem, nothing to explain now, okay, and I…”

Mr Smith told the court: “It was at that point the defendant could be seen to raise his hands towards his own throat, gesturing the action of taking someone by the throat.

“Clearly demonstrating what he had done to his victim and opening his own mouth and demonstrating the sounds of strangulation.”

The Italian national, who is currently detained at Broadmoor Hospital, had denied murder but previously pleaded guilty to manslaughter by reason of diminished responsibility.

He also pleaded guilty to assaulting Mr Harris by actual bodily harm.

The court heard that psychiatrists agreed that Palmas was suitable for an indefinite hospital order under the Mental Health Act.

Adam Vaitilingam QC, defending, offered no personal mitigation and said he agreed with the assessments.

Imposing the indefinite hospital order, Judge Peter Johnson said: “Your victim worked at the farm doing a job she loved working with the animals.

“The two of you did not have a good relationship and while she was not confrontational there were heated exchanges between the two of you.

“In circumstances which are not entirely clear, you encountered her as she tended to the animals and strangled her to death.

“Only you know precisely what happened and what led to you killing her.

“Having regard to your history of attacking others when you have relapsed and the contents of various reports, it is clear you are dangerous.”

Mr Johnson added: “I conclude with these words: On any view this was a tragic case concerning the untimely demise of a much loved, caring and greatly respected member of society.

“Kate Bevan was happiest when she was caring for the animals she adored. It may provide just a morsel of comfort to know she died amongst the animals she loved.”

Sign up to our newsletter