Government blocks wife killer’s automatic release

A man who killed his wife with a claw hammer has had his automatic release from prison blocked by the government.

Joanna Simpson, 46, was bludgeoned to death by Robert Brown in Ascot, Berkshire, in October 2010.

The former British Airways captain, who was convicted of manslaughter, was due to be freed in November after serving half of his 26-year jail sentence.

Justice Secretary Alex Chalk said he had referred the case to the Parole Board under public protection powers.

Reacting to the latest development, Ms Simpson’s mother Diana Parkes said: “It is an incredible joy but unfortunately it isn’t over yet we still have to go through the parole board and hope that they see how wicked Brown is, and give the right decision.”

Speaking on on BBC Breakfast, she added: “It’s pretty emotionally exhausting going through all this and having to relive the death of Jo for the children as well so we are very hopeful that things will get better for us now.

“We’re just rejoicing at the moment and praying for the best.”

Ms Simpson’s best friend Hetti Barkworth-Nanton, who also chairs domestic abuse charity Refuge, said: “It’s been a long fight. We’ve been living with this shadow over our lives for the last twelve-and-a-half years.”

Brown killed the millionaire at her home within earshot of their two children, then aged nine and 10, a court previously heard.

He buried her body in a pre-dug grave in Windsor Great Park before confessing to police the following day.

The former pilot, now aged 59, was found not guilty of murder after a jury was told the couple’s bitter divorce proceedings had put him under great stress.

He was sentenced to 24 years for manslaughter and a further two years for an offence of obstructing a coroner.

Ms Simpson’s family met Justice Secretary Alex Chalk and his predecessor Dominic Raab in an attempt to stall Brown’s release.

Mr Chalk said: “Joanna Simpson was bludgeoned and buried at the hands of Robert Brown, which left two children without a mother and caused irreparable harm to her family and loved ones.

“I made a commitment to Joanna’s family that I would give this case my closest personal attention.

“Having reviewed all the information available to me, I have blocked Brown’s automatic release and referred this case to the Parole Board using powers we introduced to protect the public from the most dangerous offenders.”

Ms Simpson’s mother Diana Parkes said: “We hope that the Parole Board will appreciate how dangerous Robert Brown is and we fear for the safety of our family, Jo’s friends and any female he may form a relationship with in the future.”

The government said the Parole Board would consider the case “in due course”.

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