The chances of someone being killed by a stranger suffering from schizophrenia are one in 14 million, researchers have claimed.
Scientists have said that public fears about being attacked by a mentally ill stranger were “completely misplaced” as deaths caused by people with the mental disease who are unknown to their victims are “exceptionally rare and unpredictable”.
Australian psychiatrists from the University of New South Wales in Sydney compared the characteristics of 42 patients who had killed strangers with a matched sample who killed family members.
The research, published in the journal Schizophrenia Bulletin, found that those who killed strangers were more likely to be homeless and have a history of anti-social behaviour. Their victims were more likely to be male and the killings rarely took place in their home or workplace. More than half the perpetrators in both groups had never been treated for the mental illness.
Co-author Dr Olav Nielssen, from the University of New South Wales, said: “Most of the patients in the study were not receiving treatment, and providing earlier treatment to first episode patients and a good standard of care to all patients with established illness could prevent some of these tragic events.”