Psychopath `killed after jail leave error'

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Social Services Correspondent

A mother whose daughter was killed by a psychopath who absconded while on home leave from prison took her fight for compensation to the High Court in London yesterday.

Dawn Bromiley, 42, is suing the Home Office for negligence arguing that Keith Nicholas Whitehouse should never have been allowed home leave and that when he failed to return his name was not placed on the Police National Computer, contrary to Home Office rules.

As a result no police force was searching for Whitehouse when he murdered 21 year-old Suzanne Bromiley in Brighton in October 1991, four months after he absconded. Whitehouse raped her at knifepoint and smashed her face with a brick.

Whitehouse absconded after being granted home leave from Risley. He had served 12 months of a 30 month sentence for kidnapping a woman at knifepoint.

In 1992 he pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of Suzanne on the grounds of diminished responsibility. Reports described him as a "dangerous, sadomasochistic, sexual psychopath".

After the kidnapping offence a psychiatric report in July 1990 described him as "an anti-social psychopath" which, under the Mental Health Act 1983, is classed as a mental disorder. Home Office rules state that prisoners with mental disorders are not eligible for home leave.

Yesterday, Home Office lawyers argued at the High Court that the case should be struck out on the grounds it did not owe a duty of care to Suzanne. They cited two precedents including one involving a victim of the Yorkshire Ripper.

Ms Bromiley, from Raynes Park, south-west London, who is representing herself after the Legal Aid Board refused to extend funding, argued Suzanne's case was different.

The court agreed to strike out the claim but gave Ms Bromiley 28 days to find legal precedents supporting her case. She vowed to fight on to the European Court. "I am determined to prove the Home Office was negligent. The public should have been protected from a psychopath who was supposedly under prison supervision."

She also complained the legal aid system was unfair to victims of crime. "I'm caught in a Catch 22 situation. My solicitor was given insufficient funds to fully investigate the circumstances and so advised I had a poor chance of winning after which the board refused to extend legal aid."