AN INDEPENDENT inquiry has begun into the care and treatment of double killer Sean Crone.

Crone, 26, was sentenced to an indefinite period of detention at Rampton maximum security hospital in January after being convicted of the manslaughter of Sunderland men Ian Lawson, 25, and Simon Richardson, 27.

Mr Lawson and Mr Richardson were killed by Crone on Sunderland's Red House Estate on October 30, 2003. Their bodies were found a few hundred yards apart.

Mr Lawson had 26 stab wounds, and was found lying outside his front door. Mr Richardson was found in a nearby street seven hours later with severe blood loss from a neck wound.

Days before the killings, Mr Crone had been referred to the South of Tyne and Wearside Mental Health NHS Trust and was awaiting an appointment.

During his hearing, Crone denied the murder of the two men but admitted manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility.

At his trial at Sheffield Crown Court, Judge John Milford said of Crone: "At the relevant times, he was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia and he continues to suffer from it."

An internal inquiry launched by South of Tyne and Wearside Mental Health NHS Trust is continuing.

Yesterday, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear Strategic Health Authority announced that it had commissioned an independent inquiry into the healthcare and treatment of Crone.

The authority said: "The inquiry is taking place under health service guidelines, which apply when crimes of murder or manslaughter are committed by people who have been involved with mental health services."

The investigating panel will be chaired by a barrister and members will include a consultant forensic psychiatrist and senior psychiatric nurse.

An authority spokeswoman said the findings and any recommendations would be made public.