Bury St Edmunds: Mum's Murder Couldn't Be Predicted

8 November 2011, 12:02 | Updated: 8 November 2011, 12:16

Heart has heard that the murder of a Mum-of-three in Bury St Edmunds by a man with a history of mental health problems could not have been predicted, according to a new report.

An independent investigation into the care and treatment provided to John McFarlane who killed 38-year-old Mary Griffiths with a bolt gun in front of her daughters in Bury St Edmunds has been published.

It happened after she wrote on Facebook saying he was "delusional'' if he thought they would ever have a relationship.

The report said Mcfarlane, who was 40 at the time, had a history of mental health issues dating back 15 years.

It found that although the risk McFarlane, who worked as a slaughterman, posed to himself had escalated in the months leading up to the killing, his behaviour gave mental health professionals no reason to suspect he would harm others.

A decision not to section him three days before the killing was "reasonable" and based on the risk he posed to himself, it adds.

The report concludes: "The tragic murder was not predictable and although with the benefit of hindsight, the admission to hospital... would most likely have prevented the offence at the time, this could not have been identified at any time by the various mental health professionals."

Fitness instructor Ms Griffiths had contacted Suffolk Police about McFarlane's "anger" over his obsession with her the night before her killing on May 6 2009.

Had an officer visited Ms Griffiths, her knowledge of his mental health history may have been flagged up, the report adds.

However, in March 2011, there was an Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) which found it cannont be said that had Suffolk police attended the night before the killing, her death would have been prevented.

At the time, IPCC Commissioner, Rachel Cerfontyne, made the following statement:

"This was a grotesque crime, and I would again send my condolences to Mary’s family and friends for whom no official findings can compensate for their devastating loss.  The investigation found that based on the evidence gathered and existing force policies and guidance, while the call from Ms Griffiths was graded correctly, the police should have dispatched an officer to visit her home at the earliest available opportunity on the evening of 5 May, rather than wait until the following day. Having studied the operational demands on police resources in the area that evening, we have determined it would have been possible for an officer to attend.

"However, sadly nothing in either call between police and Ms Griffiths made an urgent police response imperative or could reasonably have predicted what was so swiftly to follow. And it cannot be said that the attendance of a police officer that evening would have prevented Mr McFarlane committing the horrific crime he did.”

The IPCC also says that the actions taken by civilian staff in Suffolk Police in the handling of the call and in delaying sending out officers should be marked down as a performance, rather than misconduct issue.

Sian Wicks, author of the mental health investigation, said that several issues, which did not cause the death, had been identified and lessons should be learned.

These include taking into account a person's profession when assessing the risk they pose and ensuring that all agencies communicate better with one another, she said.

McFarlane, also from Bury St Edmunds was jailed for a minimum of 20 years in November 2009 after admitting murdering Mary Griffiths.