February 3, 2011 / 5:36 PM / 8 years ago

"Dangerous schizophrenic" escapee teaches in France

MARSEILLE, France (Reuters Life!) - A mentally ill man from Northern Ireland who once stabbed a work colleague in the neck was hired by a secondary school in France and taught German for nearly a month before his past caught up with him.

Lewis Alexander Mawhinney, 26, escaped in November from a psychiatric ward where he had been interned indefinitely and labeled a “dangerous schizophrenic” after he attacked a fellow call center trainee with a knife three years earlier.

He made his way to France and was taken on in January as a German teacher at two secondary schools in the southeastern town of Dignes les Bains — but his incoherent ramblings alerted school officials who discovered his past and dismissed him.

“The procedure for hiring temps was respected,” a spokeswoman for the regional education authority said, explaining that Mawhinney was hired after giving a good interview and presenting the right qualifications.

“We didn’t do any more than is commonly done in other French regions,” she told Reuters.

The hiring panel did request a police record on Mawhinney, the spokeswoman added, but it arrived a week after his dismissal and did not indicate any problems.

Mawhinney, who is now at a hospital in southeast France, was apparently under the delusion that he belonged to Britain’s MI5 domestic intelligence agency and would sometimes wear gloves in order not to leave finger prints.

His odd behavior attracted the attention of his superiors and one of the schools’ headmasters contacted police, who tracked down details of his past.

The students had not complained about their teacher’s strange ways, the spokeswoman added.

Reporting by Jean-Francois Rosnoblet; Writing by Leigh Thomas, editing by Paul Casciato

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