Lessons must be learned from double killing
IT is a picture of calm, in one of north London s most exclusive neighbourhoods. The Holly Lodge Estate in Highgate is dotted with mock-Tudor houses, quiet tree-lined avenues and grassy verges where children play. But just over four years ago, the communi
IT is a picture of calm, in one of north London's most exclusive neighbourhoods.
The Holly Lodge Estate in Highgate is dotted with mock-Tudor houses, quiet tree-lined avenues and grassy verges where children play.
But just over four years ago, the community was rocked when schizophrenic murderer Daniel Gonzalez walked into the home of Derek and Jean Robinson and stabbed them to death in cold blood on a Friday morning. The popular retired couple had spent their lives dedicated to other people - working as a doctor and an aid worker respectively.
The murder in Makepeace Avenue in September 2004 came out of nowhere. The Robinsons were not known to their killer - he simply went on a random and vicious killing spree, attacking strangers and killing two others before he was arrested and eventually imprisoned at Broadmoor, where he took his own life.
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Hindsight is a terrible thing. It is all too easy to look back now and highlight ways in which this terrible tragedy could have been avoided.
But a report published this week does raise serious concerns about the way in which Daniel Gonzalez was treated prior to his murder spree and these must be addressed by the health and social services in charge of his care.
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Gonzalez's own mother wrote to the Surrey mental health trust responsible for him more than 100 times with concerns about her son's health. His youth worker had described him as being "like a wild animal in a cage" and it was known that Gonzalez - a diagnosed schizophrenic - harboured fantasies about the Nightmare On Elm Street films and wanted to go around like Freddy Krueger slashing people.
All this evidence, and more besides, clearly points to someone who poses a public risk. He needed better treatment for his condition and, this week, the health services have been found to be lacking due to "a combination of human error, lack of resources, system failure and misfortune".
The killer's family called out for him to be helped, long before the horrific murders. But their pleas went unanswered.
We can only agree with Marjorie Wallace, from mental health charity SANE, who called the tragic episode "a scandal".
All local authorities - not just the ones criticised this week in Surrey - should take heed of this story and make sure signs of public risk are picked up early and acted on appropriately.