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Hammer horror: Monkseaton woman battered neighbor with tool after release from psychiatric hospital

A woman who was lucky not to kill her neighbor in a sustained attack with a hammer had just been released from a psychiatric hospital against her will, a court heard.

Michaela Johnstone repeatedly battered the woman about the head with the weapon in a prolonged attack, even sitting astride her as she landed blows. Johnstone told a court she had warned health professionals not to send her home from hospital and claimed her pleas for help were met with suggestions she did some coloring in.

Soon after that she went to the victim’s home in West Monkseaton, Whitley Bay, climbed through her window and launched a brutal attack with multiple blows to the head and face with the hammer. A judge said it was “a wonder” she didn’t kill or seriously maim the victim.

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Newcastle Crown Court heard it was around 5.40pm on April 3 this year when Johnstone went to the woman’s home and asked for cigarettes, a request which was refused. She put her foot in the door to try to stop her closing it, voices were raised and another neighbor intervened, telling Johnstone to go home.

The other woman called the police, who went to warn Johnstone about her behavior and noticed a hammer on the bench. Around 20 minutes later Johnstone went back to the neighbor’s home armed with the hammer in a carrier bag.

The woman, who was on the phone to her gran, opened a window and Johntone forced it fully open and began climbing in. Sam Faulks, prosecuting, said: “The complainant tried to push her back out and the defendant bit her on the thumb.

“The defendant reached inside the carrier bag and pulled out the hammer and started to hit her over the head with it. She struck her around 15 times to the head and face with the hammer.

“The complainant turned and ran and fell to the floor. The defendant didn’t stop, she sat astride her and continued to hit her to the head and face with the hammer and she also smashed her mobile phone by striking it with the hammer.

“She thought she was going to be killed. She managed to get to her feet and ran for the front door and was shouting for help. The defendant grabbed her hair from behind, pulled her back and rained further blows to her head. She blocked her escape and continued to attack her with the hammer.”

The victim again tried to escape but was hit again with the hammer and fell to the ground, with Johnstone once more on top of her until a neighbor came out and threw her off and took the hammer. The victim’s family, alerted due to the fact that she was on the phone to her grandmother during the attack, rushed to the scene and found her injured.

The court heard she had three deep wounds to her head which required staples, as well as swelling and bruising to her face and a bite mark to her thumb. She was left with PTSD and having flashbacks and panic attacks.

Mr Faulks said: “It was a revenge attack and it was prolonged and persistent.”

Johnstone, 31, of Harewood Court, West Monkseaton, Whitley Bay, pleaded guilty to wounding with intent and was jailed for three-and-a-half years and given an indefinite restraining order. Recorder Ben Nolan KC told her: “This was a distressing offence.

“You struck her on the head and in the face several times with the hammer. It’s a wonder you didn’t kill her or at least cause a life-changing injury. Fortunately, you didn’t.”

Johnstone wrote a letter to the court, which she read out. She said she can’t recall what happened but accepted what she had done and said she was “really sorry”, adding: “When the police told me what I had done I was shocked and horrified.

“I was in a really bad place before the attack, I had been found in a ditch because I had a psychiatric episode, hearing and seeing things that weren’t there. I was put in a psychiatric hospital not long before this and I told the hospital not to send me home because I couldn’t tell the difference between my nightmares and reality.”

She added that she told her drug and alcohol worker she needed to go back to hospital but “he offered me coloring in to do and said I didn’t need to go to hospital”. Johnstone said the attack happened shortly after that.

She claimed she had suffered issues with neighbors doing acts such as smashing her windows, setting toilet rolls on fire and throwing them at her Sky dish and throwing eggs and paint at her windows. She added: “The neighbors would tease me about my mental health. I know this is no excuse for what I did and I’m really sorry for what I did.

“I’ve found God since I’ve been in prison and I’m a totally different person. I’ve been working with mental health and feel a lot calmer and less angry. I pray in time I will be forgiven for what I did. I’m going to try to be a kinder person.”

Penny Hall, defending, confirmed that Johnstone had spent time in St George’s Hospital, Morpeth, after being found in a field.

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