Kent

Killing of Natalie Walker 'could have been prevented'

  • 19 September 2013
  • From the section Kent
Natalie Walker
Image caption Mrs Walker's family said they planned to take legal action

A mental health trust missed the opportunity to assess the risk posed by a man who stabbed his estranged wife to death, an investigation has concluded.

Former soldier Gary Walker attacked Natalie Walker, 34, at their former home in Broadstairs, Kent, in 2011.

She died of her injuries in hospital. Walker was later jailed for manslaughter.

James Thallon, medical director of NHS Kent and Medway, said he thought the killing could have been prevented.

"But I think the NHS is doing its job properly now in taking what steps it can to put its own house in order," he said.

Walker stabbed his wife to death in front of their three-year-old daughter.

'No mum'

He admitted manslaughter on grounds of diminished responsibility and was jailed indefinitely at Canterbury Crown Court.

Image caption Walker admitted manslaughter on grounds of diminished responsibility

He was told he would have to serve five years before being considered for parole.

The judge criticised Kent and Medway NHS and Social Care Partnership Trust for not admitting Walker, then aged 42.

She ordered an independent review, which has now been published.

Jackie Gardner, Mrs Walker's mother, said: "My daughter's missing. She's never going to be in any of our holidays or photos.

"My grandson said to me the other day 'it's all right for you, Nan, you had your mum all your life. I had mine for a short time'.

"Those children have been let down. They've got no mum."

'Missed opportunity'

In February 2011, Walker went to A&E at the Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother Hospital in Margate after cutting his wrists. He had sought help for psychotic symptoms in the past, believing he was being harassed by the Taliban.

A psychiatric nurse employed by the Kent and Medway NHS and Social Care Partnership Trust failed to carry out a full assessment, concluding that he was not a risk and telling him to go home and seek further help from the community mental health team.

The report concluded that the nurse's actions constituted gross misconduct and they would have been dismissed if they had not subsequently left the trust.

Image caption The trust has apologised to Mrs Walker's family

It said a full psychiatric assessment should have taken place.

"This was a missed opportunity to fully assess the risk that he posed," it said.

The report added that the violence could reasonably have been predicted, even if how far it would escalate could not.

Mrs Walker's family has also been told that more could have been done when Walker sought help months before the killing.

Karen White, medical director of Kent and Medway NHS and Social Care Partnership Trust, said: "I have apologised for the two key missed opportunities to prevent this tragedy.

"And I have explained to them [the family] the actions that we've taken to strengthen the skills of our staff in risk assessment, to ensure that all our staff get clinical supervision on a regular basis to review their work."

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