AN INVESTIGATION into the care and treatment of mental health patient John McFarlane, who killed mother-of-three Mary Griffiths, has found that the murder could ‘never have been predicted’.
Despite highlighting ‘weaknesses’ within the service which treated McFarlane, the report, published on Tuesday, said the murder could not have been foreseen.
Mary Griffiths, 38, was killed by McFarlane at her Bury St Edmunds home on May 6, 2009. He broke into her house and dragged her into the street before killing her with a bolt gun in front of her three children.
The slaughterman was found guilty of her murder at the Old Bailey in November 2009 and sentenced to life in jail.
McFarlane, who had been under the care of Suffolk Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust, had been assessed as being of no significant risk to others just days before he murdered Mary Griffiths.
NHS Midlands and East launched an independent investigation into the care and treatment provided to McFarlane. The investigation panel, made up of eight senior members, held a press conference at the Ramada Hotel, in Bury St Edmunds, on Tuesday.
Speaking at the press conference, Dr Hadrian Ball, medical director of Suffolk Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust, said: “There were difficulties and challenges within the service in recent years. These difficulties and cases were identified and were put right. Real improvements are being made.”
The report concluded that although there had been failings in McFarlane’s care and treatment, none of these led to Mary Griffiths’ murder.
But Mary’s family hit out at the findings, saying that if McFarlane had been sectioned she could still be alive.
A statement said: “We, Mary’s family, feel let down by Suffolk Mental Health Partnership’s failure to section John McFarlane. We strongly believe McFarlane should have been sectioned and this may have prevented Mary’s death.
“Nothing will ever compensate our family for the loss of our beautiful beloved Mary. We miss her every second of everyday and it is a very heavy cross we have to bear for the rest of our lives.”
The panel decided that the decision by mental health professionals not to section McFarlane was ‘reasonable’ and that although he was a risk to himself, there was ‘no indication’ that he was a risk to others.
The report said: “There does not appear to be any indication from his past history that he constituted a significant risk to others.”
His record did not show any previous history of violence or offending. It emerged from the report that McFarlane had been involved with mental health services three times in 15 years, and was found to have problems coping with external events.
McFarlane, who separated from his wife in April 2009, tried to hang himself three days before murdering Mary Griffiths.
The report said that the lack of communication between agencies was ‘regrettable’ and criticised the number of different professionals who dealt with McFarlane on ‘one off’ occasions, meaning a ‘therapeutic relationship’ could not develop. This meant it was not possible for an ‘overall picture’ of McFarlane’s mental state to be gathered, the report concluded.
Siân Wicks, author of the report, admitted that there was no evidence to suggest McFarlane’s job and access to dangerous equipment, was considered.
Mary Griffiths was killed with a bolt gun taken from the farm McFarlane worked at.
Mary, a fitness instructor, had called police the day before she was killed to make a complaint that McFarlane was harassing her.