Murder victim's daughters take court action against NHS and Suffolk Police

Mary Griffiths, above, had told police John McFarlane was harassing her.
Mary Griffiths, above, had told police John McFarlane was harassing her.

The daughters of former Newmarket Leisure Centre fitness instructor Mary Griffiths, who was brutally murdered in front of them, are pursuing a civil claim in the High Court of Justice this week.

Mary was murdered by John McFarlane, who also worked part-time as a fitness instructor at the Exning Road centre, and who shot her with a bolt gun after breaking into her home in Bury St Edmunds in 2009.

Murderer John McFarlane was jailed for life in November 2009.

Murderer John McFarlane was jailed for life in November 2009.

Her children, Jessica, Hannah and Sophie Griffiths are making a civil claim for damages against Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) and Suffolk Police which is due to be heard in the Queen’s Bench Division of the High Court of Justice.

Both organisations are facing a claim under the Human Rights Act, while the trust is also defending a claim of negligence.

McFarlane used an axe to break into Mary’s home in the early hours of May 6.

He switched off the electricity and dragged her out of bed where she was sleeping with Hannah.

Jessica and Hannah both tried to fight off McFarlane, who threw their mother down the stairs.

The four ended up outside the house and in the garden, where McFarlane shot Ms Griffiths twice in the chest and once in the shoulder with the bolt gun, in what was described as an ‘execution’ by a neighbour.

McFarlane was jailed for life in November 2009.

Mary had called police the night before her murder to complaining that McFarlane was harassing her and they had arranged to visit her the next day.

An investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission concluded that police ‘should have dispatched an officer to visit her home at the earliest available opportunity on the evening of May 5 rather than waiting until the following day’.

McFarlane, who had been under the care of the then Suffolk Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust, had been assessed as being of no significant risk to others just days before he murdered Mary.

An independent investigation by NHS Midlands and East highlighted ‘weaknesses’ in the care and treatment of McFarlane but concluded that none of these led to Mary’s murder. An NSFT spokesman said: “The trust is defending the claim on the basis of independent medical expert evidence from a specialist outside the trust who had advised that none of the trust’s staff were negligent in their treatment of Mr McFarlane prior to the murder of Mrs Griffiths.

“The independent expert medical evidence confirms that the treatment provided was entirely appropriate and therefore it is not appropriate for us to settle this claim even though the trust do have every sympathy for the claimants.”

The case is expected to last for two weeks.