Tuesday 16 January 2018

Killer who executed Dublin mother he stalked had a history of mental health issues

Ms Griffiths contacted police for advice about McFarlane and an officer was due to visit - but the appointment was re-arranged
Ms Griffiths contacted police for advice about McFarlane and an officer was due to visit - but the appointment was re-arranged
Obsessed: John McFarlane was jailed for a minimum of 20 years in 2009 after admitting murdering Mary Griffiths, 38, with a bolt gun in front of her

Ben Kendall and Independent.ie reporters

DUBLINER Mary Griffiths was executed with a bolt gun by a man who had a history of mental health issues dating back 15 years, a report has said.

An independent investigation into the care and treatment provided to John McFarlane who killed mum-of-three Mary Griffiths, 38, in front of her daughters in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, was published today.

It found that although the risk McFarlane, 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, who was born in Dublin, 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.

On May 3 a decision was taken not to detain McFarlane under the Mental Health Act.

The report states: "The decision... was a reasonable one based on the information available at the time of the assessment."

Dr Hadrian Ball, medical director at the Suffolk Mental Health Trust, said: "The death of Mary Griffiths was an absolute tragedy and our first thoughts are with her family and friends.

"Today's report will bring back painful memories but I hope it will also offer answers to everyone affected by these awful events.

"The investigation team have rightly identified some weaknesses in our care and treatment of John McFarlane.

"Although these did not cause what happened, they are clearly important.

"Although it is of little comfort to Mary Griffiths' loved ones, the report concludes that her tragic murder could not have been predicted."

McFarlane, who is in his 40s, was jailed for a minimum of 20 years in November 2009 after admitting murdering Mary Griffiths, 38, in front of her daughters at her home in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk.

McFarlane, also from Bury St Edmunds, carried out the "clinical" killing in May 2009 after Ms Griffiths posted a Facebook message pouring scorn on his "delusions" about their relationship, a judge at the Old Bailey heard.

An earlier report by the Independent Police Complaints Commission said Suffolk Police should have sent an officer when Ms Griffiths called the night before she was killed.

But it added that police could not have predicted what McFarlane would do and said it "could not be said" that the immediate arrival of an officer would have prevented the "horrific crime".

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.

Lynn Wigens, director of patient safety and clinical quality at NHS Suffolk, said: "The board fully accepts the recommendations of the report.

"Working with providers and partners, we will ensure that these recommendations continue to be implemented to further improve the safety and quality of services."

One of Ms Griffiths daughters was hurt in the attack. They are now being cared for by their father Jeremy Griffiths.

Ms Griffiths' Facebook page was flooded with condolence messages within 24 hours of her death in 2009.

Her brother Martin Ryan wrote: "To my little sister, I am in tears right now writing this. I love you so much, I didn't believe this was happening until I went on to your page. I will miss you so much."

Her sister Louise Scannell said the family were "inconsolable" and described Ms Griffiths as an angel.

One message said: "Mary, I shall always remember that last hug on your doorstep. Please forgive me. I felt I let you down after your cry for help."

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