BA pilot Robert Brown who bludgeoned wife to death with claw hammer loses bid for early prison release

28 February 2024, 21:38 | Updated: 28 February 2024, 21:44

Robert Brown's lost his bid for parole.
Robert Brown's lost his bid for parole. Picture: Alamy

By Jenny Medlicott

The High Court has ruled in favour of the Government’s decision to block Robert Brown’s early release from prison.

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Mr Justice Ritchie ruled that Robert Brown must stay behind bars following a hearing on Wednesday.

Brown killed his 46-year-old wife Joanna Simpson with a claw hammer in their family home in October 2010 as their two young children hid in a playroom.

The killing was the subject of a recent two-part ITV documentary The British Airways Killer.

Brown was cleared of murder but admitted manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility in 2011 and was sentenced to 26 years behind bars.

The former British Airways captain was due to be released halfway through his sentence in November last year but Ms Simpson's friends and family urged Mr Chalk to intervene.

In October 2023, the minister used new powers to have Brown's case reviewed by the Parole Board and subsequently block his release.

Brown appealed the referral to the Parole Board but his case was dismissed by the High Court on Wednesday.

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Joanna's family and friends campaigned against the killer's early release.
Joanna's family and friends campaigned against the killer's early release. Picture: Alamy

His lawyers argued at a hearing in London earlier this month that Mr Chalk's referral was unlawful.

The killer also claimed he is “cured” of the adjustment disorder which permitted him to plead guilty to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility.

However, the judge wrote there were "good grounds for believing" that at release Brown posed a "high risk to the public of serious harm" and that he needed a full and proper assessment.

Aged 47 at sentencing, Brown believed he was "stitched up" by a prenuptial agreement and was affected by stress linked to his divorce, a judge was told.

He claimed that "political motivation" amid a media campaign against his release improperly contributed to a decision to refer his case to the Parole Board.

He killed Ms Simpson one week before the finalisation of their divorce and dumped her body in a makeshift coffin in Windsor Great Park.

Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary, Alex Chalk KC, said following the ruling: "Joanna Simpson was brutally killed in a cowardly, senseless attack that left two children without a mother and caused irreparable harm to her family and loved ones.

"Public protection is my number one priority which is why I blocked Robert Brown's automatic release using powers we introduced to keep offenders who still pose a risk behind bars. I am pleased the High Court has dismissed his claim on all grounds."

Robert Brown was jailed for 26 years in 2011.
Robert Brown was jailed for 26 years in 2011. Picture: Alamy

Ms Simpson’s mother Diana Parkes, 84, said following the ruling: “I am grateful that the Courts delivered a positive and swift response following the judicial review brought on by my daughter’s killer.

“The decision to uphold the Justice Secretary’s decision to block his early automatic release is the right one. Brown committed the most horrific crime against my loving and caring daughter, Jo. He must be kept in prison.”

Carrie Johnson, the wife of former Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who supported the family’s campaign, said it was the "right result" on Wednesday.

She told LBC: "This is the right result and thank goodness. A very dangerous man remains behind bars.

“Joanna’s family and friends have campaigned for years for this result so today they are feeling very relieved indeed. Im glad I could play a small part supporting them.”

Ms Simpson's best friend Hetti Barkworth-Nanton, who also chairs domestic abuse charity Refuge, said: "This is a landmark decision which has the potential to open up this new power to other dangerous offenders on determinate sentences who chose not to engage in rehabilitation, which is all too common in cases of serious and fatal domestic abuse."

Spokesperson from the Joanna Simpson Foundation: “We are pleased that the Court have ruled in favour of the defendant (the Secretary of State for Justice) in making sure the decision to block the early automatic release of Robert Brown stands.

"We now hope that the Parole Board sees the same level of threat to the public as have the Court and the Secretary of State for Justice and continues to block Brown’s early automatic release.”

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