cgy-richard-david-barker

Richard David Barker, 28, who was committed to the Alberta Hospital in Edmonton, is charged in two robberies in Calgary. ((Edmonton Police Service))

A psychiatric patient who escaped from custody has been charged in two robberies that happened hours before he was arrested in Calgary.

Richard David Barker, 28, was on supervised work trip from Edmonton's Alberta Hospital, where he was committed last year, when he jumped into a van and drove away on Monday.

Calgary police arrested him without incident on a downtown C-Train platform on Wednesday night.

Barker has been charged in two commercial robberies that took place at about 10 a.m. Wednesday in the 900 block of 36 Street N.E. In both cases, a man threatened staff with what appeared to be a handgun, but it turned out to be a fake, said Calgary police spokesman Kevin Brookwell. No one was hurt.

The thief left the first business, a flower shop, empty-handed but netted an undisclosed amount of cash from a tanning salon, said police on Friday.

Barker faces two counts of robbery and two counts of possession of a weapon or imitation for a dangerous purpose. He was remanded in custody pending his next court appearance on Monday.

In November, Barker was found not criminally responsible, due to a mental disorder, in a string of two robberies and nine attempted carjackings committed in the space of 10 hours in Calgary. Police said 30 people were threatened during the crime spree, as well as a 75-year-old man who was beaten and required hospital treatment. Barker was armed with a gun during the one-man crime wave.

A psychiatrist testified at his trial that Barker thought he was the Son of God and was hearing voices. Barker was committed to the Alberta Hospital, where health officials said he had participated in many supervised excursions without incident.

'Significant communication breakdown'

Alberta Health Services has launched an internal review into Barker's flight from custody, when he was on a supervised pass to work at the Alberta Railway Museum in northeast Edmonton.

"Our question is why was this person out in the public less than a year [after the Calgary arrest], even put in this position to be able to escape? And secondly — these are things we're going to have to follow up on — why was there a vehicle in the parking lot of the museum left unlocked with keys in it?" asked Brookwell on Friday.

Calgary police were also trying to piece together why the force was not aware of Barker's escape until a day after he fled Edmonton.

Edmonton investigators claim they talked to someone from Calgary police on the phone and faxed them information on Monday night. Brookwell said Calgary police have not been able to find a record of those exchanges.

The Edmonton Police Service issued a local public release about Barker's escape on Tuesday.

The stolen van was found abandoned in Calgary on Tuesday but because the wrong licence plate was given to Calgary police, there was a delay in linking the vehicle to Barker's escape.

"There was a significant communication breakdown in this incident. I think given who it was and the significant propensity for violence that he exhibited in the Calgary area less than a year ago, the second that that van crashed through a chain-link fence at the museum, I think policing agencies right across Canada should have been notified," said Brookwell.