A parish councillor was shot and then beaten to death by a neighbour with mental health issues who was convinced the victim was a spy working for Russian president Vladimir Putin to spread Covid-19, an inquest has heard.

Alex Sartain, 34, used a home-made double-barrelled shotgun to shoot James Nash, 42, in the front garden of his cottage in Upper Enham, on August 5, 2020.

He then repeatedly stamped on the head of the children's book author, causing him fatal head injuries, the Winchester inquest was told.

Mr Sartain himself died later that day when he crashed his motorcycle while being pursued by police. An inquest into his death will be held on Wednesday.

Mr Nash died three days later at Southampton General Hospital.

A post mortem examination found that Mr Nash had suffered serious wounds from the gunshot and he had died from multiple blunt force injuries to his face and neck.

Andover Advertiser: Cllr James NashCllr James Nash

Mr Sartain’s father, John, said in a statement read to the hearing that his son had an issue with Mr Nash, who would regularly visit their home.

Mr Sartain’s brother, Scott, added: “Over the past few years, Alex Sartain’s mental health really started to deteriorate and he would often stay in his room talking to himself, talking of people from space and government agencies spying on him.”

The inquest was told that Mr Sartain was detained under the Mental Health Act in September 2019.

Scott said his brother “came back a different person" after he was release in April 2020, saying: "[He was in a] much worse state than before he was admitted"

The court was told how Mr Nash often visited the Sartain household to source parts for his tractor. He had bonded with John over a love of war memorabilia. Scott noted that his brother ‘muttered’ about Mr Nash. 

Mr Sartain became convinced that James "had something to do with Putin and the spread of Covid", while believing his wife, Sarah, was working for a secret NASA project.

Mr Sartain's father called the community mental health team for help with his son's issues and was told to contact his GP. The community mental health team had discharged Alex in April as they had been “unable to contact him”, and had sent a letter informing his GP at the Adelaide Medical Centre in Andover of this.

However, the letter was filed by administrative staff and never seen by a GP.

Andover Advertiser: Alex Sartain, pictured left, and the crime scene, rightAlex Sartain, pictured left, and the crime scene, right

John then called the surgery, where he was told by a receptionist that “there was nothing we [the surgery] can do.” A review later found this was “inappropriate advice”.

Coroner Jason Pegg said even if Mr Sartain had seen a doctor, he might not have been sectioned again. 

Mr Nash’s widow, Sarah Nash, told the hearing that she had been on a video-call when she heard the gunshot and raised voices, and ran to find Mr Sartain stamping on her husband’s head.

She said: “He was asking me what I was going to do to compensate him for the loss of income and livelihood that he had suffered, that I knew exactly what was going on.

“That I was part of the reason he was locked up, that I wasn’t who I said I was, that I was a Nasa scientist, that I knew everything about this Project Pandora, and what was I going to do about it.”

Mrs Nash described how Mr Sartain, wearing motorcycle leathers, stamped on her husband’s head “multiple times with intent”.

She said she tried to calm him down but ran away when she thought he was about to attack her.

She said he was “clearly very, very agitated” and “aggressive” as she tried to stop him from attacking her husband. As he moved towards her, she ran into a neighbour’s garden for help as Alex rode away on his motorbike.

While neighbours Caroline and Chris Wood tried to stem the flow of bleeding and get James breathing again, Mr Sartain returned to his family home, where he said he had “killed James”.

Andover Advertiser: Councillor James NashCouncillor James Nash

Family friend Toni Heaver, who was present, said that she saw what she thought was blood on his right hand, and was worried he was reloading his weapon when he entered one of the workshops. She drove to the Nash household to check on them, and to inform police of Mr Sartain's whereabouts.

Two police officers, PC White and PC Ness, went to the Sartain property, where they say Alex “accelerated very hard” towards them, forcing them to jump out of the way.

Subsequently, three “improvised weapons” were recovered from the property, with forensics showing they had all been fired at some point.

James was taken to hospital in Southampton, where his blood pressure was “initially unreadable”. There was little response from him to treatment, and a CT scan arranged on August 6 showed a brain injury that was deemed “unsurvivable” by doctors.

A post-mortem examination found five pellets in James’s body, as well as black staining to the left hand where he had defended himself against the shotgun. Dr Amanda Jeffrey found that the brain had been ‘grossly disrupted’ while the skull had been significantly damaged, finding that James’ cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head.

Summing up, Area Coroner Jason Pegg said that Alex “had entered James Nash’s property intending to confront him” and that the impact of his assault was “the inevitable consequence James Nash would suffer considerable bodily harm or loss of life”.

Coroner Jason Pegg said that following Mr Sartain’s release from hospital into community care, his condition deteriorated, leading to his father contacting the NHS out-of-hours service in June over his concerns.

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He said that a record of this contact was passed to Mr Sartain’s GP surgery, Adelaide Medical Surgery in Andover, but this was only filed and not brought to the attention of his GP.

Mr Pegg said that procedures had been changed at the practice to prevent this from reoccurring, following a change in management.

Recording a verdict of unlawful killing, Mr Pegg said: “Alex Sartain in his mind believed and had concerns that James Nash worked for President Putin and Nasa and James Nash was in some way in control of him.”

Describing her husband, Mrs Nash said: “He was a kind and generous man who wanted to help people and the community at large.

“He was inspired by everything around him, he loved to draw, he loved to create and he wanted to share that with people and that’s how he created his characters that went into his children’s books.”

The inquest into the death of Alex Sartain will be concluded on Wednesday, April 21.