Raab vows to take charge of hammer killer release case
AN AIRLINE pilot who killed his estranged wife will undergo a full risk assessment before his release and could be kept behind bars, campaigners said yesterday.
Robert Brown, 59, bludgeoned his estranged wife Joanna Simpson to death with a claw hammer within earshot of their two young children, hitting her at least 14 times.
He is due for automatic release this year after serving 13 years of a 26-year sentence, but Joanna’s mother Diana Parkes said she had won assurances from Justice Secretary Dominic Raab that he would order a full risk assessment of the release.
Under legislation passed last year, Mr Raab can refer cases to the Parole Board if he feels prisoners due for release could pose a risk to the public, or to national security.
Prison officials blocked former British Airways pilot Brown from moving to an open prison last year, reportedly because he was deemed too high risk.
Mrs Parkes, 84, met Mr Raab and victims and sentencing minister Edward Argar yesterday, and pleaded with them to keep Brown behind bars. She said Mr Raab, who is also the Deputy Prime Minister, promised a complete risk assessment of Brown’s release, and said it was an ‘important development’ in the #NotAnotherJo campaign.
Speaking after the meeting in Westminster, Mr Raab said he would review the case personally.
He added: ‘Joanna Simpson was brutally killed in a heinous and despicable act which has changed the lives of her family and friends for ever.
‘I was humbled to meet with Joanna’s mother and best friend to extend my deepest sympathies for what her family has been through and assure her that I am giving this case my closest personal attention and will be reviewing it very carefully.
‘Public protection is my top priority. I want dangerous offenders to remain behind bars for longer.’
Mrs Parkes’ campaign has won high-profile support, including from Carrie Johnson, the wife of former prime minister Boris Johnson, and former home secretary Priti Patel.
Brown attacked Joanna, 46, in their former marital home in Ascot in 2010 – using a hammer he had hidden in their children’s homework bag – and buried her in a grave he had previously dug in woodland in Windsor Great Park.
Joanna had filed for divorce after enduring years of abuse, harassment and intimidation and the pair were locked in a legal battle over their finances. At his trial, Brown was acquitted of murder but admitted manslaughter due to diminished responsibility, and said he suffered from a stress- related ‘adjustment disorder’.
Mrs Parkes questioned why he was eligible for automatic release without any medical review, given his plea of diminished responsibility due to the disorder. She said she feared he could still pose a threat to her family, including his children, who were just nine and ten when he killed their mother.
She warned his release would require a high level of monitoring, at a time when the Probation Service has warned it is struggling to cope with existing workloads.
She and Joanna’s best friend Hetti Barkworth-Nanton launched the Joanna Simpson Foundation in her memory and both met Mr Raab.
In a statement released via the foundation, they said: ‘We are thankful for the time the secretary of state and his team spent with us.
‘We welcome his assurance that he will request a complete risk assessment of Robert Brown’s release under the new powers he has available to him.
‘We are very encouraged by this important development.’
Mrs Parkes said she was ‘tremendously grateful’ for the public and political support she had received since launching the #NotAnotherJo campaign earlier this month, when she spoke to the Daily Mail about her family’s fears over Brown’s release.
Joanna Simpson’s family are urging people to write to their MP calling for Brown to remain in jail.
Details can be found at www. jsfoundation.org.uk