A family doctor says he no longer feels safe in his surgery after a patient burst in and shot him with a crossbow bolt at point blank range.
The metal tipped bolt penetrated the abdomen of hardworking GP, Dr Gary Griffith, but miraculously he survived the attack.
Seven months after patient Mark Waterfall tried to murder him, Dr Griffiths says he has been left with feelings of “dread” and now fears for his safety while at the surgery.
He said: “Going into work was a pleasure and a large part of my enjoyment and purpose in life. This one incident has destroyed all of those positive feelings about my workplace. I no longer feel safe.”
It was in July of last year that 46-year-old Waterfall drove to the Suthergrey House Medical Centre in St Johns Road, Watford where Dr Griffith worked.
After pulling up in the car park, Waterfall loaded a bolt onto the crossbow, placed it in a carrier bag and then walked into the waiting room at the surgery.
There he waited until he saw a patient leave the doctor’s consultation room and then walked in and fired the bolt at the seated GP who had been writing up his notes.
Waterfall blamed Dr Griffith for the death of his father who had died in hospital four days earlier.
On Friday, February 15, unemployed Waterfall of Fairhaven Crescent, South Oxhey, who had cared for his dementia suffering father, Terrence, was jailed for 20 years at St Albans Crown Court after being found guilty of the attempted murder of Dr Griffith.
At the hearing it was revealed the highly respected GP has been deeply affected by the attack that morning.
A victim personal statement made by the doctor was read out in court by prosecutor Peter Shaw.
In it, the doctor said: “I have had recurrent severe nightmares about the incident or related dreams of being murdered.
“I have never had any problems with sleep of any kind before this. These have persisted.”
In the statement, Dr Griffith went on: “I have worked hard as a full time GP in the same surgery for over 20 years and built up a good relationship with patients and partners. Going to work was a pleasure and a large part of my enjoyment and purpose in life.”
He said the incident had destroyed any “positive feelings” he’d had about the Suthergrey House Medical Centre and he no longer felt safe there.
The GP added: “I worry about when Mr Waterfall is released, as he clearly showed a great deal of patience and planning of the attack.
“I work a 12-hour day and there is only a 10 minute space in the whole day when someone could enter my room in this way, as after morning surgery, I write my notes of the last patient and then leave and lock the surgery.
“The fact that other patients witnessed Mr Waterfall waiting in the surgery until the last patient had left fills me with dread at the level of planning that went into the attack.”
The attack took place when Waterfall opened the door to the doctor’s consultation room, took the cross bow from the bag and pointed it at Dr Griffith, telling him: “You killed my father and I am going to kill you.”
The court heard that the bolt, which travelled at a speed of 187 feet per second, struck Dr Griffith in the left side of his stomach.
Miraculously, he survived because it was warm in the room and he had loosened his shirt around his waist that morning so that it was gathered up around his midriff.
As a result, the arrow had to pass through four layers of the doctor’s shirt and didn’t penetrate deep enough to kill him.
“It was pure good fortune that you didn’t succeed,” said Judge Stephen Warner as he sentenced Waterfall.
Waterfall appeared for sentence having been found guilty in January of attempting to murder Dr Griffith.
At the trial, the GP said he was able to pull the arrow from out of his stomach wall, telling the jury: “Although the wound was gaping, it hadn’t gone into the colon.”
Realising he had failed to kill him, Waterfall reportedly looked down at the floor “dejected” and said: “I can’t even get that right.”
Judge Warner sentenced Waterfall to an extended 25-year jail sentence after concluding that he was a danger to the public and posed a risk of committing further offences.
The judge said the custodial element of the sentence was 20 years, of which he will have to serve two thirds behind bars before the parole board decides if he is safe to be released.
Whenever that is, Waterfall will remain on licence until the year 2044.
Days before the attack on July 10, the defendant’s 76-year-old father, Terrence Waterfall, had gone to see Dr Griffith complaining of breathlessness.
The doctor found he had fluid on his lung and arranged for him to be admitted to Watford General Hospital that same day.
The plan was for the fluid to be drained, but the court heard it was discovered at the hospital that the father had a cancer on his lung and the procedure couldn’t take place.
The following day Mr Waterfall snr died at the hospital.
In the days that followed, the son – who has a history of mental health issues including an eating disorder and depression – became convinced the doctor was responsible for this father’s death.
Waterfall, who was also a patient at the surgery, blamed the treatment the doctor had given to his father and to himself.
On the morning of the attack, Waterfall left his home in his silver Hyundai car and drove to a nearby Wetherspoons pub for breakfast.
Then he drove to the surgery where Dr Griffith worked.
In the car was a powerful crossbow Waterfall had bought two weeks earlier.
He had been practicing with it by firing it at targets set up in his back garden.
On entering the surgery that morning with the crossbow hidden in two plastic carrier bags, he could see from a screen which consultation room the GP was working in.
He then sat in the waiting area, positioning himself so that he could look down a corridor and see when a patient left the room and the doctor would be on his own.
At around 11am, Dr Griffith was sitting at his desk in a swivel chair writing up a patient’s notes when the door to the room suddenly opened and Waterfall walked in.
“He stepped into the room and was pointing something at me,” the doctor told the court.
He said he couldn’t tell immediately what it was because it was wrapped in two plastic carrier bags.
But he said when Mr Waterfall pulled away the bags he could see “It was a loaded crossbow.”
“He had been my patient for 10 years. I recognised him immediately. He just seemed furious,” he said.
Mr Waterfall, he said, then told him: “You killed my father and I am going to kill you.”
The GP went on: “His fist was clenched, it was like his whole body was clenched.”
The doctor said from a distance of about five feet Mr Waterfall fired the bolt at him, which entered the left side of his abdomen while he was still sitting in his swivel chair.
Dr Griffith said that, having removed the bolt from the left side of his abdomen, he followed Waterfall outside the building to the car park and tried to stop him from getting into his car by talking to him.
In the car park he said the defendant had told him he had “murdered” his father, adding: “You have been sending me to a loony bin for 30 years.”
The doctor said when Mr Waterfall got into his car he took photos on his mobile phone of the vehicle’s number plate before going back into the surgery, where he called the police.
He said a woman colleague “dressed the wound.”
At the trial the prosecution said how, in the days leading up to the attack on the doctor, the defendant had “developed a festering hatred” for him.
After the defendant’s arrest, police officers discovered he had documented his anger at the treatment given to his father and himself in a number of video and audio recordings he had made.
A USB stick that was strapped to his toe on his arrest was also found to contain information “files” in which he expressed his anger.
In his statement, Dr Griffith said: “I have always prided myself in trying to go the extra mile to help patients and in the 10 years I have known Mark Waterfall, I had thought we had a very good relationship.
“I even remember on one occasion staying long after work to write to social services when they cancelled his benefits so that they were reinstated as soon as possible”
He said he had never seen the defendant’s father until the day he came to the surgery and then referred him straight away to hospital.
Dr Griffith said: “It therefore pains me even more to see a patient I have gone out of my way to try to help, attempt to take my life in such a calculated way.”
Judge Warner praised the courage of Dr Griffith, whose first thought had been to follow Waterfall as he went back to his car in an attempt to try and persuade him to give himself up to the police.
After the case, investigating officer, detective constable Lewis Mortimer said: “This was a frightening ordeal for the victim, who was just going about his daily business at his workplace, serving the local community and supporting their health.
“Thankfully, due to the fact his shirt was loosened on that day, he did not suffer life-changing or life-threatening injuries. but it could have been a very different story.”