Stalker victim’s children fail in damages bid against police and health chiefs

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Lawyers representing the three daughters of a 38-year-old fitness instructor who was murdered by a stalker are considering their options after a High Court judge blocked their bid to claim damages from police and health authority bosses.

Slaughterman John McFarlane shot Mary Griffiths in the chest with a bolt gun used for killing cattle after breaking into her home in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, nine years ago.

He subsequently admitted murder and was given a minimum 20-year jail term following a hearing at the Old Bailey in London in November 2009.

Evidence showed that McFarlane, who is now in his late 40s, had been stalking and harassing Ms Griffiths and that she had called police the day before she died saying she was “really frightened”.

Her three daughters, Jessica, Hannah and Sophie, say her death was preventable.

They sued Suffolk Police and Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, arguing that if proper steps had been taken their mother would not have been murdered.

Mr Justice Ouseley on Wednesday dismissed their damages claims after analysing evidence at a High Court trial in London.

Mary Griffiths
Mary Griffiths was killed with a bolt gun normally used on cattle (Family handout/PA)

Suffolk Police and the health trust had disputed their claims.

Lawyers from Imran Khan Solicitors had represented the sisters.

A spokesman said lawyers would study the judge’s written ruling before making decisions about what to do next.

Mr Justice Ouseley explained, in his ruling, how Ms Griffiths and McFarlane had been friends.

She had “made it clear” that she did not wish their friendship to develop into a romance.

The judge said there had been mental health concerns about McFarlane in the days before the attack on May 6 2009.

He said McFarlane had been angry, resented things Ms Griffiths had said and had attempted suicide on May 2.

On May 3 a Mental Health Act Assessment Panel had decided that he did not need to be compulsorily admitted to hospital.

He had gone to live on a farm where he worked and was being cared for by a “crisis team” working for the NHS trust.

At around 6pm on May 5 Ms Griffiths had called police, saying McFarlane was harassing her and that she was “really frightened”.

A control room operator had called shortly before 10pm and asked if it would be possible “in view of the resources available” for police not to come that night but the next morning.

Ms Griffiths said that “would be fine”.

Shortly before 3am on May 6 McFarlane had broken into her home, armed with an axe and bolt gun, dragged her into the street and shot her in the presence of her children.

Mr Justice Ouseley concluded that there was clearly a risk of harassment and stalking on the night of May 5 but nothing to suggest an “imminent risk” against which police measures were required.

The judge said there was no basis on which the Mental Health Act Assessment Panel ought to have concluded that McFarlane posed a risk to the public because there was a risk that he would kill himself.

Lawyers representing police had told the judge that Ms Griffiths’ daughters had a right to criminal injuries compensation.

But they said evidence did not show that police acted unlawfully.

Lawyers representing the trust said there was “no support for the contention” that staff knew or ought to have known that McFarlane was stalking or harassing Ms Griffiths.

The Imran Khan Solicitors’ spokesman said later: “Our clients are disappointed. They will now consider their options with their legal team.”

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