Patient found guilty of attempted murder after crossbow attack on GP

A man was found guilty yesterday of the attempted murder of GP Dr Gary Griffith after shooting him with a crossbow at his surgery in Watford, Hertfordshire in July last year.

(Photo: iStock.com/Nicholas Free)
(Photo: iStock.com/Nicholas Free)

Mark Waterfall carried out the attack because he wrongly blamed Dr Griffith for the death of his father four days earlier in hospital. Before Mr Waterfall fired the metal tipped bolt, he told Dr Griffith: ‘You killed my father and I am going to kill you.’

The 46-year-old is facing a long prison sentence after being found guilty of attempted murder in St Albans Crown Court on Tuesday.

The court heard that the crossbow bolt, which travelled at a speed of 187 feet per second, struck Dr Griffith in the left side of his stomach.

Dr Griffith survived because it was warm in the room and he had loosened his shirt around his waist that morning so that it was gathered up around his midriff. This meant the arrow had to pass through four layers of his check cotton shirt and did not go deep enough into his body to kill him.

Crossbow attack

Dr Griffith said he was able to pull the arrow out of his stomach wall, telling the jury: ‘Although the wound was gaping, it hadn’t gone into the colon.’

He went on: ‘I had to pull the wound apart to check if it had gone into the bowel. I was still sitting down and I removed the bolt and put it on my desk. I pulled the wound apart to see how far it had gone in.’

As he did so, Dr Griffith said Mr Waterfall looked down at the floor ‘dejected’ and, realising he had failed to kill him, said: ‘I can’t even get that right.’

Mr Waterfall was found guilty by the jury of attempting to murder Dr Griffith on the morning of July 10 last year. Judge Stephen Warner adjourned the sentencing for the preparation of reports, including a psychiatric report.

Remanding him in custody, the judge told him: ‘I am going to order a pre-sentence report and a psychiatric report to assess your dangerousness - the risk you represent to the public. You have been convicted of the very serious offence of the attempted murder of a GP in his surgery and it’s inevitable you will receive a significant custodial sentence.'

During the three-day trial, the court heard how Mr Waterfall wrongly and irrationally blamed Dr Griffith for the death of his father, 76-year-old Terrence Waterfall.

Five days before the crossbow attack, Terrence Waterfall had seen Dr Griffith at the Suthergrey House Medical Centre in St Johns Road, Watford complaining of breathlessness. The doctor found he had fluid on his lung and arranged for him to be admitted to Watford General Hospital the same day.

The plan was for the fluid to be drained, but the court heard it was discovered at the hospital that the father had a cancer on his lung and the procedure couldn't take place. The following day Mr Waterfall Snr died at the hospital.

In the days that followed Mark Waterfall, who was also a patient at the practice and who has a history of mental health issues, became convinced that Dr Griffith was responsible for his father’s death.

Attempted murder

On the morning of July 10 last year Mr Waterfall entered the surgery with the crossbow hidden in two plastic carrier bags. He could see from a screen which consultation room Dr Griffith was working in. He then sat in the waiting area, positioning himself so that he could look down a corridor and see when a patient left room the room and the doctor would be on his own.

At around 11am, Dr Griffith was sitting at his desk writing up a patient’s notes when the door opened and Mr Waterfall entered. ‘He stepped into the room and was pointing something at me,’ Dr Griffith told the court.

He said that when Mr Waterfall pulled away the bags he could see ‘it was a loaded crossbow.’

Dr Griffith said he had recognised the defendant as a patient as soon as he came into the room. ‘He had been my patient for 10 years years. I recognised him immediately. He just seemed furious,’ he said.

Mr Waterfall, he said, then told him: ‘You killed my father and I am going to kill you.’

The GP went on: ‘His fist was clenched, it was like his whole body was clenched.’

Dr Griffith said Mr Waterfall fired the bolt at him from a distance of about five feet and it entered the left side of his abdomen while he was still sitting in his chair. The court was told after firing the bolt and realising he hadn’t killed the doctor, Mr Waterfall dropped the crossbow on the floor and left the consultation room.

Dr Griffith, having removed the bolt from the left side of his abdomen, followed him outside the building to the car park and tried to stop him from getting into his car by talking to him.

‘I tried to persuade him to go to the police station round the corner. I said I will come with you. I wasn’t sure if he had anything else on him,’ he said.

Dr Griffith said that when Mr Waterfall got into his car he took photos on his mobile phone of the vehicle’s number plate before going back into the surgery where he called the police and a colleague dressed his wound.

The prosecution said that, in the days leading up to the attack on Dr Griffith, the defendant had ‘developed a festering hatred’ for him based on what his perceived as the mistreatment of himself and his father. The court heard Mr Waterfall had in the past experienced mental health issues, including an eating disorder and depression.

The prosecutor said that after the defendant’s arrest police officers discovered he had documented his anger at the treatment given to his father and himself in a number of video and audio recordings he had made.

Giving evidence, Mr Waterfall said he hadn’t meant to harm or kill the doctor. He claimed he took the crossbow with him to the surgery that morning because he wanted to confront Dr Griffith and get answers ‘about my medical health and my father’s medical health. I was going to try and scare Dr Griffith,’ he told the jury.

‘I aimed down and away so I wasn't going to hit his trunk or face. I hit him where I aimed to hit him,’ he said, telling the court he hadn’t told the doctor he was going to kill him.

At the start of the trial Mr Waterfall admitted a charge of wounding Dr Griffith with intent.

He will be sentenced next month.

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