A psychiatric patient given ten life sentences after slashing the throats of 15 women at a Birmingham department store has been released into the community to go shopping, it emerged yesterday.

David Morgan (43) was warned he may never be freed when jailed after his rampage through the city's Rackhams' in 1994.

But Morgan, dubbed the "Rackhams Slasher" after turning its cosmetics and handbag departments into a bloodbath using kitchen and boning knives, has been released without supervision from a Stafford hospital.

It is understood Morgan, from Aston, is being treated at a semi-secure unit at Stafford's St George's Hospital.

South Staffordshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the unit, said its decision had been endorsed by the Home Office.

Morgan reportedly spent up to four hours a day wandering among female shoppers in Stafford town centre.

Wearing a T-shirt showing three scantily-clad women, Morgan was observed strolling through an Asda, browsing in TK Maxx and drinking in a bar.

A spokesman for the health trust said it was "very aware" of the safety of patients, staff and the community.

He added: "However, we also have a duty to help patients recover and resume as normal a life as their illness will allow.

"Some patients have restriction orders from the Home Office which limit their movements.

"Our clinicians and care workers aim to provide every opportunity for patients to get better while operating within the restriction orders."

The news may shock shoppers at the upmarket Birmingham department store, owned by House of Fraser, where customers are still offered free kitchen or garn ishing knives during promotions.

But last night no one from House of Fraser was prepared to comment.

A consultant forensic psychiatrist liaised with Public Protection Units, which include health, police and probation representatives, at each stage of the process which led to the decision to release Morgan.

The health trust spokesman said: "All decisions have been endorsed by the Mental Health Unit at the Home Office. These measures are taken to ensure as well as trying to provide the very best care for patients the safety of the public is always of paramount importance."

Morgan was jailed in February 1996 for the ten-minute spree on December 8, 1994, motivated by a grudge against women.

Morgan, of Osborne Tower, Gladstone Street, Aston, admitted nine charges of unlawful wounding and one of assault.

He pleaded guilty to slashing the throat of psychiatric nurse Steven Messenger with a razor blade while on remand at Ashworth high security mental hospital on Merseyside.

His female victims, including a disabled 85-year-old, needed multiple stitches - with one woman missing death by an inch after the blade almost severed her windpipe.