Case: Custody officer death: Lorraine Barwell
Lorraine Barwell
Humphrey Burke
Status: Solved
Categories: Mental Illness
Case synopsis:

Custody officer Lorraine Barwell, 54, died two days after being kicked in the head by a prisoner at Blackfriars Crown Court.

Ms Barwell, who worked for Serco, suffered a brain haemorrhage and fractured jaw in the attack at around 1pm on 29 June 2015.

She remained in a coma until her life support was switched off on 1 July 2015. A postmortem gave the cause of death as a head injury.

Detectives originally charged Humphrey Burke, 22 (04/03/93), of no fixed address, with grievous bodily harm. The Crown Prosecution Service authorised a murder charge on 10 July 2015.

Burke was found unfit to stand trial by a judge at the Old Bailey on 11 April 2016. A jury concluded committed the acts on 14 April 2016 and he was sentenced to detention at Broadmoor Hospital under the Mental Health Act.

The court heard Burke was brought from HMP Thameside to Blackfriars Crown Court after pleading guilty to two attempted robberies of bookmakers in Islington.

After the hearing he was taken down to the cell area to await return to Thameside. At 1pm Lorraine Barwell and two female Serco colleagues went to collect Burke from his cell to take him to the van.

After Lorraine Barwell handcuffed herself to Burke he pretended to faint and collapsed to the floor. He was dragged into the corridor so the handcuffs could be released and was then restrained by three male Serco officers and handcuffed behind his back.

As he was brought to his feet Lorraine was standing in front of him trying to control his head. Burke first kicked backwards at the male officers before swinging his foot forwards, knocking Lorraine to the ground.

As she crouched or kneeled in front of him he kicked out again, hitting her in the face and knocking her unconscious.

Burke later told psychiatrists he did not believe Lorraine Burke was dead and that it was a 'conspiracy'. He was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.

Mr Justice Singh said: 'This case is on any view a tragic one. Lorraine Barwell was an employee of Serco acting as a prison custody officer at Blackfriars Crown Court.

'By all accounts she was someone dedicated to her job, she was clearly close to her family who loved her.

'She was kicked by the defendant in such a way which caused her serious injuries leading to her death.

'She was sustained by the hospital for about two days but was eventually pronounced dead on 1 July.

'It is important to emphasis that what has taken place in this court this week is not a trial at which there would be a determination of whether the defendant is guilty of a criminal offence.'

Killer Humphrey Burke and victim Lorraine Barwell

Detective Chief Inspector David Reid of the Homicide and Major Crime Command said: "Lorraine Barwell was not a threat to Humphrey Burke; she was merely doing her job - the same job that she had carried out with dedication and professionalism for many years.

"Burke chose to lash out, using what the pathologist described as severe force to inflict catastrophic injuries on Lorraine.

"Her death was needless, caused by a senseless act of violence on the part of Burke."

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