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Coroner tells government: Stop more dying like Angela

Justice secretary urged to act after woman was murdered by her double killer ex-partner

25 June, 2021 — By Tom Foot

Angela Best died after being attacked by Theodore Johnson in December 2016

A CORONER has warned the government that “unreliability was built into the system” that should have protected a woman who was killed by her former partner.

Mary Hassell has written to the Justice Secretary, Robert Buckland, with concerns over the death of Angela Best in Dartmouth Park Hill, following an inquest that took place last month.

Ms Best, 51, died after being attacked by Theodore Johnson, 67, who already held two manslaughter convictions for killing two other ­former partners. Ms Best had not known about Johnson’s past during a 20-year relationship despite a specific order for him to inform the authorities if he had a new partner.

Ms Hassell’s report said: “No person or organisation had the role, responsibility or power to investigate his relationship status.

“The monitoring of whether he was in a relationship was almost entirely based upon his self-reporting.”

She added: “In fact, when this condition of discharge was imposed in 1997, the man was already known to have been untruthful about his relationship status. He continued to be untruthful about it.”

Theodore Johnson

In 1981, while living in Wolverhampton, Johnson had killed his then wife Yvonne Johnson by pushing her from the ninth floor of a housing block.

The subsequent court case was told he had been “provoked” and the judge said he had been abused, describing him as a ­“battered husband”.

And in 1993 he was found to have strangled his former partner Yvonne Bennett with a belt as their two-year-old daughter slept in another room.

As their relationship began to sour, Ms Bennett had tried to get police to remove Johnson from their home in Finsbury Park.

Ms Best died in December 2016. She had only discovered Johnson’s past after finding a letter in a drawer at his home.

Coroner Mary Hassell

Ms Hassell said in her report: “A matter important enough to be made a condition of discharge, depended upon the truthfulness and openness of an untruthful, two-time killer who had a vested interest in withholding the relevant information. Unreliability was built into the system.”

The coroner has put Mr Buckland on notice that future deaths could happen unless “action is ­taken”.

She did not recommend what that action should be.

The report explained: “His risk to others was, over the years, consistently judged to be low if he was not in a relationship, but high if he was in a relationship. Knowing about a new relationship would allow the man’s behaviour to be explored in a meaningful way by those treating him.”

She added: “It would allow the woman to be informed of his history and to be offered specialist support, both during the relationship and if she chose to end it.

“It would allow more effective risk assessment and safety planning to try to protect her.”

Copies of the report have also been sent to Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust.

The Ministry of Justice has until August 1 to respond to Ms Hassell’s “prevention of future deaths” notice.

After killing Ms Best Johnson threw himself in front of a train. He survived but lost his right arm and left hand, and was in a wheelchair when he was charged with murder in 2017. He is now serving a life sentence.

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