Claire Palmer appears in the Inquest into the death of Angela Best
On 3 June 2021, Coroner Mary Hassell concluded the inquest into the death of Angela Best. Ms Best was murdered by Theodore Johnson in 2016 at his home address. Mr Johnson had killed 2 previous partners. In 1981, he pushed his first wife from a 9th floor balcony and was convicted of manslaughter on the grounds of provocation and received a 3 year custodial sentence. In 1992, he killed his then partner. The Court accepted a plea to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility and he was sentenced to a hospital order under s.37 of the Mental Health Act and subject to a restriction order under s.41 of that Act.
He was released from hospital in 1997, and was subject to supervision by a Responsible Clinician (a psychiatrist) and a Social Supervisor (a social worker). For the first 7 years, he was also supervised by a Forensic Psychiatric Nurse. Reports were submitted to the Ministry of Justice every 3 months which confirmed that his mental health remained stable and not identifying any concerns. Although there was a condition that Mr Johnson report any relationship with a new partner to his supervising team, he failed to do so and consistently told the professionals that he was not in a relationship over the 19 year period. Had he done so, the inquest heard that a series of steps could have been taken to support his partner, and she would have been told about his past.
The Coroner returned a conclusion of unlawful killing. She expressed her concerns that none of those monitoring Mr Johnson, nor any other agency, had the power to proactively investigate whether he was in a relationship. Had they done so, she concluded that the outcome would probably have been different. The Coroner has confirmed her intention to send a Prevention of Future Deaths report setting out her concerns.
Claire Palmer acted for the Ministry of Justice Mental Health Casework Section.
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