A DAD-of-two working on the first NHS Nightingale hospital was said to have bludgeoned his mum and step-dad using a poker, tankard and ash pan – then went for a shower.

The ferocious assault at Linda and Adrian Holford’s home near Marlborough left her fighting for her life. She spent more than a month in hospital.

James Wells, 43, denies two counts of attempted murder, pleading reasons of insanity.

Opening case for the prosecution at Bristol Crown Court this morning, Ray Tully said Wells, a project manager whose previous projects included working on the Beijing Olympics, had been working on setting up the first NHS Nightingale Hospital at the Excel Centre in London in March. Wells’ area of expertise was setting up catering facilities.

The weekend before the alleged murder attempt, Wells had spoken to his friend and boss, Eddie Fairish, about feeling stressed. The men had gone back to their homes after staying in staff accommodation near the site.

Jurors were told that on the morning of the assault, March 30, he spoke to occupational health nurse Catrina Hughes, who realised he was becoming more and more distressed. She overheard him telling his mother, who he had called on the phone, that he had not slept for four days.

Wells told the nurse that he had had a short-lived affair with a co-worker earlier that year. He said he thought he was having a breakdown.

Ms Hughes spoke to Wells’ mother, Linda Holford, 70, and arrangements were made for him to stay at her home in Shalbourne, near Marlborough.

Mr Fairish helped Wells collect his things from his rooms near the site, noticing that his usually-meticulous friend’s room was extremely messy. On the drive down from London, Mr Fairish said Wells had appeared confused about recent events.

Wells was said to have been dropped off at his mum’s bungalow without a handover. He had a bath and went to bed for around 15 minutes before returning in a “hyper” mood. Mrs Holford took her son out for a walk, and the three watched television and ate dinner together.

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Mr Tully said Wells had gone to bed but again re-emerged from his room carrying a case. His mum and step-dad, 75-year-old Adrian Holford, asked him where he was going.

“Adrian Holford then says that following that he went ‘absolutely berserk’. He said that James was to grab [Linda], his mother, by the throat and to push her to the floor. He tried to strangle her, there was kicking, headbutting and punching of her,” Mr Tully told the jury.

“Her head happened to be quite close to the fireside hearth in the home and tools were picked up from the fireside hearth – a poker and an ash pan – and she was struck with them.

“The defendant then grabbed a pewter tankard from a cupboard that was close to the hearth and that too was used as a weapon.

“Adrian Holford tried to intervene. He was headbutted, he was struck about the head with the tankard, he was to tell the police that his thoughts at that stage were that ‘we’re going to die here’.

“He recalls the defendant having something in his hand and effectively stabbing at him, stabbing at them both.” In his original account Mr Holford described it as a screwdriver, although it was later found to be a broken fire tool.

Mr Tully told jurors: “There was blood everywhere by this stage. Mr Wells took himself off for a shower and he went to wash off some of the blood that had accumulated as a result of the attacks that had taken place.”

He was said to have kept the door to the bathroom open so he could keep an eye on what was happening in the rest of the house. His step-father managed to get to a phone and called 999.

As police officers and paramedics scrambled to get to the property, Wells was said to have returned from his shower. Realising what his step-father had done, he went around smashing other phones in the house, Mr Tully said. He answered a call from the same 999 operator who had earlier spoken to Mr Holford, it was claimed. She asked to speak to “Adrian” and was told by Wells” don’t be silly” before he went on to make a comment about “killing my” but tailed off.

Mr Tully said Wells then began shouting, screaming and making “quasi-military comments”. “He was ordering that Adrian should salute him,” the prosecutor said.

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Bristol Crown Court

Wells was said to have fetched a large knife from the kitchen and was walking around with it. “Mr Holford thought, in his words, it’s curtains for both of us.” He later told police that he could recall Wells saying “I want to murder mum” then, later, “I think I’ve done it”.

An ambulance crew was first on the scene, followed by two beat officers at around 7.50pm. They were warned to wait for armed officers but, when they saw Wells come to the door, one of the constables shouted a warning then fired her Taser.

Linda Holford was found to have suffered fractures to her skull, facial bones, nose, jaw, teeth, eye socket and had bleeding on her brain. She was taken first to hospital in Southampton by air ambulance before later receiving treatment at Swindon’s Great Western Hospital and the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford.

Her husband received eight lacerations to his head that required 27 stiches. He suffered a suspected puncture wound to the right side of his skull, lacerations to his eye and ear as well as bruising around his jaw. He was treated at the scene and at Great Western Hospital.

Jurors heard that Mr and Mrs Holford had never previously had problems with their son. Mr Tully said: “Prior to all of this if you had stopped the clock as on March 30 and you’d asked step-dad what did he think of his step-son he was to tell the police that he would have characterised their relationship with James – his and his wife’s relationship – as wonderful. They’d never had a cross word.

“But overall he says that what he witnessed that day was his step-son going ‘berserk’ – one word he used – ‘ballistic’, another, he was to say that he was simply on a different planet.”

Wells was said to have made a number of comments while in custody about “killing” his mother, including: “I just want my mum to be alive, but she’s dead.”

While in police custody he had been taken to Great Western Hospital by officers. As they were getting him back into a police car he was alleged to have spat at one of the constables, a PC Jack Bush. The spittle struck the officer in the back of the head, Mr Tully claimed.

He had not been interviewed by the police in light of psychiatric assessments. He is a man of good character, jurors heard.

Wells, of Lee-on-the-Solent, Hampshire, has pleaded not guilty for reasons of insanity to two counts of attempted murder and a charge of assaulting a police officer. The trial continues.