Rosie report a `whitewash'

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The Independent Online
A report into the psychiatric care of Shaun Armstrong, who murdered three-year-old Rosie Palmer, is a "whitewash", her mother said yesterday.

The care given to Armstrong was "inadequate" and full of shortcomings, but his actions "could not have been predicted" an independent inquiry presented to Tees Health Authority concluded.

It is almost two years since Rosie Palmer's body was found in Shaun Armstrong's flat in Hartlepool. The cause of her death remains a mystery because the girl's body was decomposing by the time police, making their third search of Armstrong's flat, found it in a bin-liner inside a cupboard.

Armstrong was jailed for life last July after admitting murder. It emerged a year before the murder, a senior social worker had warned: "Armstrong is likely to be a risk to any child he comes into contact with."

The report also disclosed that Armstrong had been accused of abusing three other children, had himself been sexually abused as a child, was the product of an incestuous relationship and in turn had an incestuous relationship with his mother, had a violent past, and had drink and drugs problems. Psychiatric reports prepared for the Crown Court diagnosed him as suffering from a personality disorder.

Armstrong's initial clinical history at Hartlepool hospital was full of shortcomings, the inquiry concluded, and his subsequent admissions to hospital - five within 14 months - was "further compromised by reliance on the initial inadequate clinical history".

The main question the inquiry team, chaired by Clyde Freeman, a solicitor from Darlington, faced was whether Rosie's murder could have been prevented if Armstrong had been treated differently by the various agencies. "The team conclude that there was some inadequacies in care, but believe even if those inadequacies had not existed Armstrong's behaviour - and therefore the risk to others - could not have been predicted."

But Beverley Palmer said she could not accept that Armstrong's actions were unavoidable: "I will never trust the authorities again. We all live in total fear," she said. "If the IRA plants a bomb, they are responsible. If somebody like Armstrong is given a home in a community, it is the responsibility of the authority."

The chairman of Tees Health Authority, Tom O'Connor, said some recommendations had been implemented and a review carried out jointly by Tees Health Authority and social services. "An action plan . . . is being drawn up to address the findings."

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