By Tony Wall

Mental health services knew that axe killer Lachlan Jones was thinking about murder weeks before he took his flatmate's life - he had burned the word into his flesh.

The New Zealand Herald understands Jones was referred to a West Auckland acute psychiatric unit in July because he had stamped the word "murder" on to his left calf with a branding iron.

The wound became infected and he sought medical treatment from a GP, who was concerned and referred the 19-year-old schizophrenic to the Te Atarau unit at Waitakere Hospital.


Jones went there voluntarily - he had also been there a year earlier after a failed suicide bid - but discharged himself against medical advice just four days later.

Jones later answered a flatmate-wanted advertisement placed by Henderson man Malcolm Beggs, 25, whom Jones murdered in bed with an axe last week.

Jones then took his own life.

Asked yesterday why Jones had been allowed to discharge himself if he had signalled his murderous state of mind, Waitemata Health spokeswoman Caroline Mackersey said: "He had no known history of violence towards any other person."

She said an inquiry had been set up to review the events leading up to the tragedy and she could not comment until it was complete.

Mr Beggs' sister, trainee nurse Marilyn Beggs, was shocked yesterday when told of Jones' "murder" brand.

"We knew nothing about that. It's unbelievable. He's got it written on his leg. How much more information can you get?"

Marilyn Beggs said she had also discovered that the psychiatric nurse who was visiting Jones at her brother's home did not always give Jones his anti-psychotic medication directly.


"On the Tuesday before his death this nurse walked into Malcolm's home, handed him the medication and asked him to pass it on to Jones. Malcolm didn't know what it was for or who the nurse was.

"If they trusted Malcolm with the medication, they should have trusted him with information [about Jones' condition]."

Police found 17 doses of medication discarded in Jones' bedroom.

Marilyn Beggs said she was writing to Labour leader Helen Clark asking for the mental health system to be overhauled if Labour won the election.

She said she was outraged at the arrogant manner of the mental health staff she had spoken to so far.

Jones' father, newspaper editor Owen Jones, said he was concerned that his son had been let out into the community after the "murder" brand was found.

"You wouldn't do something like that if you were sane," he said.

He believed that a lack of communication between health authorities was partly responsible for the deaths.