United Kingdom

Children's author, 42, was shot in the face and beaten to death by his neighbour

A children's author was shot and then beaten to death by a neighbour with mental health issues, after he became convinced the victim was a spy working for Russian president Vladimir Putin to spread Covid-19, an inquest has heard.

James Nash, 42, was shot in the front garden of his home in the hamlet of Upper Enham, near Andover in Hampshire at 3pm on August 5, 2020.

His neighbour Alex Sartain, 34, used a home-made double-barrelled shotgun and then repeatedly stamped on the parish councillor's head, 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.

James Nash (pictured), 42, was shot in the front garden of his home in the hamlet of Upper Enham, near Andover in Hampshire at 3pm on August 5, 2020 

A post mortem examination found that Mr Nash had deflected the gunshot with his left hand but died from multiple blunt force injuries.

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.

He said: 'He was always on about James Nash, saying that James Nash had something to do with Putin and the spread of Covid.'

He added Mr Sartain believed Mr Nash, who had previously worked as a graphic designer for aerospace business Airbus, had been working in a conspiracy with Boeing and Nasa.

Alex Sartain (pictured), 34, used a home-made double-barrelled shotgun and then repeatedly stamped on the head of the parish councillor, causing him fatal head injuries, the Winchester inquest was told 

The hearing was told Mr Sartain also believed he was being tracked by the 'CIA, MI6 and SO19'.

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 Mr Sartain was detained under the Mental Health Act in September 2019 before being released in April 2020.

Mr Nash's widow, Dr Sarah Nash, told the hearing 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.'

Police tape at the cordon of the house in Upper Enham. The Sartain family's garage is just 200 yards from £600,000 Holly Tree Cottage, where Mr Nash lived with his wife Dr Nash, a senior space scientist

Mr Nash's widow, Dr Sarah Nash, told the hearing 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. Pictured, their £600,000 home 

Dr 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 ran to her neighbour's house and screamed 'help, help, there's a crazy man out there and James has been knocked unconscious'.

Pauline Heaver, a friend of Mr Sartain's, said she was 'frightened' on August 5  when he told her he was 'f*****g killing James', appeared to have blood on his leathers and revealed a weapon.

After the shooting, John said his son appeared outside his motorbike workshop in full race leathers and a crash helmet. 

He said Mr Sartain ‘ranted’ about shooting somebody and demanded petrol from his father before making off on his Yahama R1 motorcycle.

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 

'Troubled' motorcyclist Mr Sartain worked as a mechanic at a garage (pictured) just yards down the road from his victim's home

His son crashed into a tree three miles from the murder scene while being pursued by police. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Mr Sartain later found his son’s homemade shotgun dumped in his workshop. A local said the gun was possibly obtained through Alex’s ‘drug contacts’.

The killer had a string of convictions including assault, meat theft and drug-driving, and had been addicted to heroin for a decade, although his father John said he had been clean for two years.

Mr Sartain 'liked' various Nazi pages on his Facebook, including one dedicated to Horst Wessel, a leader of the stormtroopers in Berlin. Wessel was made Nazi martyr by propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels after he was killed in 1930. 

He also liked a page for Adolf Galland, a German Luftwaffe general, and another titled 'I HATE POLICE'. 

Mr Nash (left) died while his wife Dr Sarah Nash (right), a senior space scientist, sustained minor injuries

Mr Sartain worked at JMS Motorcycles - a garage locals said was owned by his father - and previously served jail time for stealing from Marks and Spencer and TK Maxx. 

The Sartain family's garage is just 200 yards from £600,000 Holly Tree Cottage, where Mr Nash lived with his wife Dr Nash, a senior space scientist.

A biography for Mr Nash, who is originally from Dorset, stated that in 2012 he ‘returned to the countryside to follow his heart and become a full-time wildlife artist’.

Coroner Jason Pegg said 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.

He said 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.

Dr Nash said her husband, who she met through the aerospace industry, enjoyed walking around Britain with her and discovering fossils

When his father called the surgery to have him sectioned, a receptionist 'inappropriately' told him doctors would not see his son if he would not consent and so Sartain was never treated again. 

Doctors at the surgery only discovered this after the incident. 

Mr Pegg said that procedures had been changed at the practice to prevent this 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, Dr 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.'

She said her husband, who she met through the aerospace industry, enjoyed walking around Britain with her and discovering fossils.

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