The murder of a former Newmarket fitness instructor was ‘preventable’, had action been taken by police and mental health staff, London’s High Court was told.
Mary Griffiths, 38, who had worked at the town’s leisure centre was killed by John McFarlane in front of her three daughters at her Bury St Edmunds home in May, 2009, hours after she phoned police to say she was scared.
Her daughters Jessica, 22, Hannah, 19, and Sophie, 18, have sued the chief constable of Suffolk Police and Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust for damages. They claim that, had steps been taken by police or the trust, their mother’s death would not have happened.
Their barrister Nicholas Bowen QC said Mrs Griffiths was ‘terrified’ when she called police about McFarlane, who had been stalking and harassing her. The trust had decided not to detain him under the Mental Health Act on May 3.
“Mary called the police at 5.56pm on May 5 – she was terrified, she wanted to them to come out but, for reasons that we will investigate in this trial, they decided not to prioritise the call and did not attend, said Mr Bowen.
The police force and the trust deny the claims.
Lawyers for the chief constable said police had ‘absolutely no reason’ to believe McFarlane would kill Mrs Griffiths, while Angus Moon QC, for the trust, said staff believed McFarlane might harm himself but they did not know he was stalking or harassing Mrs Griffiths. “None of the trust’s staff considered that McFarlane posed a risk to others,” he added.
McFarlane was later jailed for life with a minimum term of 20 years.
A decision on the case will be made at a later date.