Solicitor who injected blood into food not guilty due to insanity

Elghareeb: Captured on CCTV

A solicitor who injected food with his blood at a series of supermarkets, causing losses of £500,000, has been found not guilty by reason of insanity.

Leoaai Elghareeb, 37, wandered into three stores on Fulham Palace Road in West London on 25 August 2021 carrying a bucketful of hypodermic needles.

He jabbed products including an apple, bacon, buttermilk and chicken tikka fillets. He also threw a syringe at a doctor but it bounced off her, causing no injuries.

The three supermarkets – Sainsbury’s Local, Tesco Express and Little Waitrose – had to throw away all their products as a precaution, at a cost of nearly £500,000.

It was agreed that Mr Elghareeb committed the offences, but his barrister argued he was insane at the time he carried out those acts.

He denied three counts of contaminating goods and two counts of assault and a jury at Isleworth Crown Court last week formally found him not guilty by reason of insanity.

Mr Elghareeb qualified in 2011 at City giant Herbert Smith Freehills and also worked for Allen & Overy in the Middle East and US firm Milbank.

The three shops found a total of 21 syringes during a thorough search and deep-clean before they were able to reopen.

Dr Frank Farnham, a consultant forensic psychiatrist, told the court that Mr Elghareeb suffered from a “severe disease of the mind resulting in a loss of a sense of reality”.

He said the solicitor heard voices commanding him to do things by controlling his dreams and parts of his body. “These are often encountered by issues of schizophrenia.” He claimed one of these voices to be Boris Johnson, while another was a former colleague.

The court heard that Mr Elghareeb had abused crystal meth as part of a ‘work hard and play hard lifestyle’.

“He’s bright and academically done very well,” said Dr Farnham. “He has had an extremely successful career within the legal profession.”

Dr Farnham said the solicitor had suffered psychological trauma including periods of homelessness after coming out as gay to his family. In 2020 he had tried to hang himself to make the voices in his head stop.

Mr Elghareeb believed the voices in his head resulted from government spies placing implants in his ears and skull.

Dr Farnham concluded: “It didn’t cross his mind whether it was legal or unlawful; he was making a desperate attempt to draw attention from the police and be treated. He was in such a disordered mental state that he couldn’t form a rational decision. They were a set of actions to draw attention to the fact that he needed treatment.”

Fellow psychiatrist Dr Bradley Hillier said Mr Elghareeb had at least a 12-year history of mental health problems, including “strong suicidal episodes” and times when he has harmed himself.

“He heard voices from an air conditioning machine in the past that told him to set himself or his flat on fire,” Dr Hillier told the court. As long ago as 2012, he believed that he was being tracked by the security services.

Mr Elghareeb likened his experience to the character played by Jim Carrey in The Truman Show, as he believed he was living in a world where nothing was real.

Dr Hillier continued: “My diagnosis is that Mr Elghareeb suffers from an illness that causes psychosis. This could include schizophrenia or another psychotic illness such as depression that can cause psychosis.”

He added that crystal meth was known to contribute to psychosis. “People take substances for a variety of complex reasons but most often to manage emotional difficulties and also to control symptoms of mental health problems.

“Even though he knew he was literally throwing needles and throwing them into food; he was doing this psychotically believing he would get in touch with the real police who would help him get the implant out of his brain.

“He was not thinking straight. He was in a situation where he was trying to escape this worth that the psychosis had created for him. He was so burdened and tortured, is the word he used.”

Mr Elghareeb was remanded in custody until 9 June.

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