Robber says sorry for his crimes
9:10am Monday 16th September 2013 in Latest News
A 22-YEAR-OLD mentally disabled man walked 16 miles to the Adver’s office to tell his victims he was sorry for the crimes he committed while he was homeless – but who is helping this vulnerable adult?
In 2009 Rhys Carey, then aged 18, robbed five people in Swindon’s streets. For his crimes he spent two years behind bars.
Rhys left home at the age of 17. His mother, Louise Brokenshire, had seven other children and although she attempted to support him with his mental disabilities, without professional support the family struggled.
He suffers from a range of illnesses including epilepsy, diabetes and hydrocephalus which means he has no frontal lobe to his brain, resulting in him lacking the proper ability to empathise with others and he cannot control his emotions.
He resorted to a life on the streets having lost contact with social services and not being able to arrange a council home.
But he does not want to hide behind his illnesses.
He has been plagued with remorse and wants to publicly announce his apology to his victims.
“I understand that words don’t necessarily mean a lot but I’d be willing to show them through actions if they wanted me to,” said Rhys, who is currently living in Calne.
“I know I’ve done my time and I can walk around Swindon as a free man, but my victims might still be scared to go out. I feel like the system has let me down but that does not mean I can go around and make innocent people victims.”
He said during his two years of being homeless, he was attracted to move to Swindon from his former home near Chippenham because the town had better facilities for people living on the streets.
However, it was during these dark years in his life, when he was in and out of homeless shelters, that he first turned to violent crime.
As a teenager he was involved in minor offences such as shoplifting and possessing class C drugs.
Last September, Rhys robbed the same vulnerable victim on two occasions, six weeks apart in the Gorse Hill area. For this crime he was spared returning to Reading Prison after the court was told he had twice attempted suicide the day before he was due to be sentenced.
The hearing went on in his absence as he was still recovering in hospital.
“I do think about the people I robbed,” said Rhys, who during the attacks would grab his victims from behind and demand them to hand over their money.
“They didn’t know if I was going to strangle them or stab them – it was horrible.”
He said he never carried a weapon but his victims did not know that.
Doctors did not pick up on Rhys’ illness until he was around 10 years old. Louise, 48, of Lower Stanton, said if his brain damage had been identified earlier, things could have been very different.
“He probably wouldn’t be the way he is today,” said Louise. “I kept trying to get him help but I was told he slipped through the net.
“He has the best intentions in the world but he forgets things and he does not understand people like the rest of us.”
Instead of being sent to a specialist school which could provide support for his mental disabilities he was forced to attend a school for ‘naughty boys’.
“This just made him worse,” said Louise. “It was like banging your head against a brick wall trying to get help. I kept taking him to see people, but they would only see him for an hour.
“They didn’t see all the different moods, they just kept saying ‘yeah but you're coping’.”
Rhys’ mood swings and attempts at suicide started to affect his brothers and sisters, and when Rhys reached 17 he left home. At first he was cared for by social services but he ran away from them and was not seen for around a year.
“I couldn't find him,” said Louise. “It was horrible, I kept waiting for that phone call. I didn’t know what to expect.”
She said when she learned about his robberies she was angry at Rhys but also angry at the authorities.
“They haven't done anything for him. He should have never been left on his own, he needed professional help – the system has completely left him.”
Since leaving prison Rhys now has a support worker, but Louise worries that when this support worker leaves, Rhys could go back to square one.
“I try my best for him. He knows he can always come here, it’s a safe house for him. But he needs proper professional help,” she said. She said she dreamed of the day when Rhys could have his own house, with a social worker coming around each day to make sure he has everything he needs.
“He wouldn't have to go on the streets then looking for food,” said Louise, who added she worried that day may never come for Rhys because although he is on a council house waiting list no progress has been made.
“He’s a little lost boy,” she added. Director of operations at Wiltshire’s probation services Riana Taylor welcomed Rhys’ apology.
“We are really pleased when people take responsibility for their actions,” said Mrs Taylor.
“We spend a lot of time trying to get people to see the error of their ways and turn their lives around. This reduces the risk for future victims. Some people never get there. I just hope that the community can kind of be welcoming to him. I have complete empathy with those that cannot.”
The MP for south Swindon Robert Buckland has been involved in a number of restorative justice schemes in the town, where victims and offenders meet during a controlled arrangement.
“It is very much the victim who has to make the first move,” said Mr Buckland. “If they feel they want closure on what happened to their life.
“It’s a very interesting case and I think it’s great he wants to take responsibility for his offending behaviour. My advice to him would be to go to the police and tell them so they can contact the victims to see if they want to engage with this kind of approach.”