Acton Woman Hospitalised Indefinitely After Killing Man

Rhian Beresford sent to secure mental health facility

Stefan Melnyk
Stefan Melnyk

A woman from Acton who ran over and killed a man near the Everyone Active Leisure Centre and stabbed another has been sent to a secure mental health facility for an indefinite period.

29-year-old Rhian Beresford of Hope Gardens had earlier pleaded guilty to manslaughter by reason of diminished responsibility in connection with the death of Stefan Melnyk just as the first lockdown was beginning last March. Her two-year-old daughter was in the back of her black Vauxhall Corsa when her car hit Mr Melnyk.

Following her arrest she had told officers that she had believed a paedophile ring was after her daughter and so she had hurriedly put her in the car and driven away from her home. The voices in her head resulted in her driving the car onto the pavement and at Mr Melnyk who was unknown to her. Ms Beresford had previously been diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic.The court was told that her attempts to self-medicate her illness with cannabis had exacerbated her condition.

The Crown Prosecution Service accepted her plea of not guilty to murder and attempted murder in connection with the attack on the second victim and she was sentenced at the Old Bailey on Friday 19 February. The Crown Prosecutor accepted the plea after consulting with the family of Mr Melnyk and the other victim.

The 54-year-old was run over on at 12.50pm on 22 March 2020 on Salisbury Street. Ms Beresford then got out of the car and 39-year-old George Pantazi in the hand after he had attempted to prevent her from leaving the scene. The work gear he wore in his job as a Thames Water maintenance worker is believed to have saved him from more serious injuries.

Mr Melnyk, who lived locally, was rushed to hospital but died the following day. He was a bus driver and union activist of Ukrainian heritage. His father, who was taken to France by the Germans during the Second World War, escaped after the Allies landed at Normandy. He actively supported the work of the Ukraine Solidarity Campaign.

Salisbury Street, Acton
Salisbury Street, Acton. Picture: Google Streetview

DetectIve Inspector Garth Hall of the Met’s Specialist Crime Command (Homicide) said, “As the pleas entered at court indicate, this is a case where it is accepted that severe mental ill health was a key factor.

“While this may go some way to accounting for the events of that day, it nonetheless remains a tragic incident and my thoughts are with Stefan Melnyk’s family as they continue to come to terms with their loss.

“I would also like to once again thank and pay tribute to the members of the public who came to Stefan’s aid in the most traumatic circumstances.”

February 22, 2021