Mother's fight over murdered child fails

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The Independent Online
A WOMAN lost her fight yesterday for compensation from the health authority responsible for the care of her daughter's murderer.

Beverley Palmer, 40, said she became a "psychological wreck" after her three-year-old daughter, Rosie, was abducted, murdered and mutilated by Shaun Armstrong.

But the Court of Appeal upheld a High Court judgment that her claim for pounds 200,000 damages against the health authority responsible for Armstrong's care should be struck out.

Armstrong, 37, seized Rosie after she bought a lolly from an ice-cream van outside her home in June 1994. He was jailed for life for her murder. He had been known to have psychiatric problems and had threatened to kill children. Hartlepool General Hospital in Cleveland had released Armstrong and he had been rehoused near Rosie's family in Hartlepool in 1993.

Lord Justice Stuart-Smith, giving judgment yesterday, said he upheld the High Court judge's ruling that there was no connection between the health authority or the hospital and Rosie. He said it was "impossible not to have the deepest sympathy for Mrs Palmer for this truly appalling catastrophe", but her appeal failed.

Mrs Palmer had alleged that Armstrong had a history of childhood sexual abuse by his mother and neglect by the authorities responsible for his protection and care. She had claimed the hospital, Hartlepool and East Durham NHS Trust and Tees Health Authority had "failed to diagnose that there was a real, substantial and foreseeable risk of Armstrong committing serious sexual offences against children and of causing serious bodily injury to any child victims".

She said they had failed to offer him treatment to reduce the risk of him committing the offences and had failed to prevent him being released from hospital while he was a risk.

The health authority said that because it owed no duty of care to either Rosie or her mother, the negligence action should be struck out.

Robert Sherman, representing Mrs Palmer, had told the three Court of Appeal judges that his client was a successful nurse at the time of the abduction.

Now, she was unable to work, has attempted suicide several times, had lost the care of her remaining child and had been temporarily sectioned under the Mental Health Act.

Lawyers for Mrs Palmer, who was not in court, may take the case to the House of Lords.

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