Care home fined after teenager murdered by man with history of predatory sexual violence
A care home has been fined £125,000 for breaching health and safety rules following the murder of a teenage girl nearly a decade ago by a fellow care home resident fascinated by necrophilia.
Melissa Mathieson, 18, was strangled by Jason Conroy (both pictured) at Alexandra House, which provides residential care for adults with autism and Asperger’s syndrome, in Bristol in October 2014.
Conroy, now aged 27, was jailed for life and ordered to serve a minimum term of 19 years for the sexually motivated killing.
Bristol Crown Court heard Alexandra Homes (Bristol) Ltd was charged last year with an offence under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 following a lengthy investigation.
David Sapiecha, prosecuting, told the hearing that Conroy had shown a “pattern of predatory sexual violence” in the years leading up to the murder and had killed Miss Mathieson just two months after moving into Alexandra House.
Conroy, who once tried to strangle a teacher so he could abuse her, planned to drag the teenager’s body back to his room and have sex with her.
Previously he had also attempted to kill his mother by putting a duvet over her head for the same reason.
Hours before she died Miss Mathieson, who had ADHD and autism, had complained to staff that Conroy was stalking her.
Mr Sapiecha said the company had failed in its duty to keep residents safe after being given information about the danger Conroy posed, including a report from psychiatrist Dr Hilary Grant.
“It cannot be said there was no warning at all,” he said.
“Information was already known when the report by Dr Grant was eventually provided. The report was received at the beginning of August – some two months before the incident.
“While it is accepted that the creation of a support plan and risk assessment was created before the Grant report, it should have raised immediate concerns and raised immediate action.
“Once they had that report, Alexandra Homes should have changed the control measures, which were woefully inadequate to protect others, to one that put in place robust support measures and shared with staff.”
In a victim impact statement, Miss Mathieson’s father, James, from Berkshire, said: “My beloved daughter Melissa was murdered under their watch and that is something I can never forgive them for.”
At a previous hearing Alexandra Homes pleaded guilty to failing to provide adult care services accommodation for residents in such a way as to ensure those affected, including Miss Mathieson, were not exposed to the “risks from assault by Jason Conroy” between February 13 and October 13 2014.
Andrew Langdon KC, defending, said the company had been trading for nearly 20 years and had an enviable reputation in the industry.
“It is important that it has never had any difficulty in having all the residents it could cope with – it has quite the waiting list and that has always been the case,” he said.
“It has not had to advertise its placements because of its reputation.”
Mr Langdon added: “It had no commercial interest in bringing Jason Conroy to Alexandra House because it could have filled that placement many times over.
“But it fell short by not reading the contents of this report.”
Passing sentence, Judge William Hart described Conroy as a “highly disturbed and dangerous young man” whose character was of a “violent sexual predator”.
He said the company had failed to install measures, such as panic alarms and movement sensors, to protect Miss Mathieson and other residents.
“Jason Conroy presented if anything a unique risk management situation but it might be said that makes the compliance with the statutory obligations even more imperative,” the judge said.
“The risk could not have been wholly removed and the steps they took were extensive but not such to comply with its statutory duty.
“The company accepts it did fall short.
“Nothing can reflect the value of Melissa Mathieson’s loss of life and no financial penalty of any amount can do so.”
Speaking afterwards, Mr Mathieson, whose wife died from cancer shortly after his daughter, said: “The fine to me is immaterial. The fact that they have pleaded guilty to failings is the thing that keeps me going.
“It’s hard, it really is. Nine years have passed and I’m still no closer really to filling in the full picture of what happened to my daughter.
“Yes, she was murdered but she was murdered in the care home and there should have been things in place for both of them.
“I do not want to see another family put through what I have been put through.
“I really just miss everything about her. She was a bubbly girl. I miss seeing her every day.”
HSE inspector Caroline Coleman said: “Alexandra Homes was given clear warning signs about Jason Conroy’s behaviour but simply didn’t act upon them.
“As a result, Melissa Mathieson, a vulnerable young woman, lost her life in a setting that was meant to protect and help her.”
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