20.06.17 Look out for later related articles
By Mark Watts
Damning findings of an investigation into the murder by a schizophrenic patient of a stranger can be revealed today after an official report was leaked.
The long-awaited report on the investigation highlights failures by police and hospital staff as “root causes” of the random killing of a 58-year-old grandmother, Sally Hodkin, as she walked to work in south-east London. Nicola Edgington, a schizophrenic patient who was living in the community, almost decapitated the grandmother when she slashed her neck with a butcher’s knife in 2011.
NHS England ordered the investigation by an external panel, and its report concludes that the failure by police to detain Edgington under the Mental Health Act (MHA) when they had a chance just a few hours before the killing was one of two root causes.
The report describes the failure as “a fundamental contributory factor which if removed will be expected to prevent or significantly reduce the chances of reoccurrence.”
Just before the murder in a memorial park in Bexleyheath, Edgington, then aged 31, had also attacked a 22-year-old woman, Kerry Clark, with a knife at a bus stop.
The trial heard that Edgington had been detained in a psychiatric unit for stabbing her own mother to death in 2005. But after three years, she was conditionally discharged to live in the community.
The trial also heard how, hours before her attacks in 2011, Edgington pleaded with police and staff at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Woolwich that she urgently needed to be detained because of her deteriorating mental condition.
NHS England was preparing to publish the investigation report, with its damning findings, in May 2014. The report concluded that police should have detained Edgington.
But Scotland Yard went to the High Court to block its release, branding it “unlawful and irrational”.
The Met launched legal action against NHS England, seeking a judicial review to reverse its decision to publish, running up huge costs bills on both sides.
The investigating panel produced a softened version of the document in January last year. It removed the specific finding that police should have detained Edgington, but it still said that the failure to do so was a root cause of the murder.
The Yard continued to object to the conclusions, but then agreed to suspend its legal action last October just before a hearing at the High Court that was due to decide on whether the NHS could publish the report.
A “consent order” lifted the ban on publishing the final report last October, so long as the NHS gave the Met 28 days’ notice.
The NHS duly gave notice, and was hoping to publish the damning report by March. But there was a further delay after the NHS decided to amend the report by scrapping its initial intention to keep the names of Edgington and the two victims anonymous in it.
As a result, the NHS had to seek a fresh consent order, which it secured in April.
It had to give a fresh 28 days’ notice of publication, which expired on June 8. Even so, the report remains unpublished.
Despite requests from me, NHS England has been unable to say anything about when the report will be published.
I have seen the full, final document. And today, I reproduce the Edgington report’s key extracts.
Arrested: Nicola Edgington held by police shortly after murdering stranger