Christmas murder: Pensioner who killed wife 'was failed by mental health system'

Family condemn agencies' response to their father's depression
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Indy Lifestyle Online

To those outside the family, Roger Goswell was a jaunty and wealthy pensioner who filled his retirement with fast cars, luxury holidays and afternoons playing golf near his home in West Chiltington in Sussex. But to his family, he was "a tortured soul" who had struggled for decades with depression.

Such was the deterioration in the state of his mental health that in recent weeks his wife of 46 years, Susan, expressed to their three children and to police officers grave concerns for her safety.

Two days before Christmas, Mr Goswell, 66, a retired property developer, bludgeoned his wife to death, stabbing her three times with a kitchen knife and attacking her with a rubber mallet in the living room of their 750,000 bungalow.

He left a note on a door that read "police entry only" before crashing his Smart car into a tree in an apparent suicide. Mr Goswell was taken to hospital and died four hours later.

The tragedy highlighted a crisis in the UK's mental health services. On average one person a week dies at the hands of a mentally ill patient known to them in England and Wales, according to the Government's National Patient Safety Agency. Nearly a third of those who went on to kill were judged not to be a risk to the public.

Six days before killing his wife, Mr Goswell had been discharged from the Priory Hospital in Hove, where he was treated for depression. He had been admitted to the NHS-run Harold Kidd Unit in Chichester at the end of November, where staff did not consider his condition serious enough to section him under the Mental Health Act.

At some point in the week leading up to Christmas, Mrs Goswell, 63, a former hairdresser, dialled 999 after an on-going row escalated.

As the family condemned the system, which they say let down both parents, questions were raised about how agencies responded to concerns in the hours, days and weeks before the tragedy on 23 December.

A call for a full independent inquiry into the handling of Mr Goswell's case was made yesterday by Marjorie Wallace, chief executive of the mental health charity Sane. "This tragic case highlights... the need for everyone involved to take pleas for help seriously," she said.

More than 3.5 million older people in the UK who experience mental health problems do not receive adequate support or services, according to the UK Inquiry into Mental Health and Well-Being.

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