Failure led to devoted mum's killing

PUBLISHED: 07:37 18 May 2002 | UPDATED: 11:57 03 March 2010

FAILINGS by mental health workers in the care and treatment of a schizophrenic man ended with him attacking and killing his devoted mother, a former Ipswich beauty queen.

FAILINGS by mental health workers in the care and treatment of a schizophrenic man ended with him attacking and killing his devoted mother, a former Ipswich beauty queen.

The family of beauty queen Rosemary Neale said yesterday there had been "gross failings" by North East Essex Mental Health NHS Trust to properly train its staff.

Former Halesworth schoolgirl Mrs Neale, a former Miss Ipswich, died after her son Jonathan attacked her at his flat in St Peters Street, Colchester, in September 1999.

Neale was aged 21 at the time of the killing and had been experiencing mental health problems since he was 17 years old 17.

A report by a review panel appointed by North Essex Health Authority – which has since been replaced by Essex Health Authority – found "weaknesses" in Neale's care and made a number of recommendations.

But the health authority played down any parallels between the Neale case and two other Essex killings by mentally-ill men.

John Piccolo from Dallinghoo, near Woodbridge shot and killed his ex-girlfriend's new partner in September 1998. He also shot his ex-girlfriend and his own son Darren, who was left with permanent brain damage, before turning the gun on himself.

Mr Piccolo's family claimed North Essex Health Authority and Mid Essex Community and Mental Health Trust had failed to recognise his increasing need for acute psychiatric care and had not committed him under the mental health act.

In 1994, mentally-ill Christopher Edwards was beaten to death by his schizophrenic cell-mate in Chelmsford Prison. An inquiry highlighted failings, including poor communication between those involved in the care of his cell-mate, Richard Linford.

Dr Paul Watson, medical director for Essex Health Authority, said: "Every single one of these cases is a tragedy which shouldn't have happened.

"First of all, it is unavoidable that these things will happen from time to time, the best systems are never able to prevent homicides.

"There are very different circumstances in each case and we don't have any indication that there are underlying problems in mental health services in Essex giving rise to these cases."

Neale, now aged 24, was originally charged with murder, but admitted manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility at Chelmsford Crown Court in February 2000. He was committed to the Runwell mental hospital in Wickford under the Mental Health Act.

Mrs Neale's father Gordon Chatten said last night the system had failed both his daughter and his grandson.

"Particularly in view of the fact that they apparently knew he (Jonathan) had threatened to kill his mum before and attacked a man a month before, I would say it failed them both, not just Rosemary but Jonathan as well," he added.

"This has caused my daughter's death. I am upset about it. I feel these (the failings) were regrettable, but I would not go any further than that. That is all I can really say."

The panel was satisfied with the care Neale received between October 1995 and December 1998 and concentrated on events from April 1999 onwards.

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