A TEENAGER found hanged six weeks after his father gunned down his mother before killing himself was failed by those who should have helped him, a report has revealed.
A serious case review into the death of 16-year-old Jack Williams, of Brynglas, Newport, and the attempted murder of his mother, Rachel, found Newport council’s children’s services failed to carry out a multiagency assessment following the death of his father, Darren Williams, which could have resulted in action to safeguard the boy.
A social worker also failed to inform health professionals after Jack self-harmed a week after the tragedy on August 19, 2011, and an assessment of him did not address whether he was in need of protection.
Jack was found hanged in Brynglas Woods on September 26 – the same place his father was found hanged on August 19 six hours after shooting his estranged wife at the Carol Ann Hair Salon in Malpas Road, where she was working.
An inquest into both deaths is yet to be held.
A report, to be made public today, will say that while Mr Williams was known to police and health services, there was nothing to alert them to any concerns about the family before the shooting.
It will say that while Mrs Williams alleges years of domestic abuse at his hands, this was not known to anyone outside of the family, and that because of the speed at which the incidents escalated, police did not have time to investigate one allegation before another was made.
It adds that Mr Williams could have been better supported by health professionals upon his release from hospital after suicide attempts prior to the shooting.
Mr Williams was on bail charged with assaulting his wife in the weeks before the shooting and police were also investigating threats to kill the man whom he believed she had been unfaithful with.
He was bailed to live with his sister and conditions preventing him returning to the marital home were put in place. New locks and panic alarms were fitted to the house.
Mrs Williams expressed concerns to health professionals about her husband’s mental state and fears about what he might do given their marriage breakdown in July 2011. These fears increased in the days leading up to the shooting, but they did not think he posed any risk to Mrs Williams and were “shocked” by his attempt to murder her, the report says.
They were instead concerned about preventing him from self-harming after he was hospitalised after trying to take his own life three times.
Mrs Williams maintains she was not shocked by his actions as he had always made it clear that he would “take her with him rather than live without her”. Her previous attempts to leave him failed because of this.
The emergency services had numerous contacts with the family in the weeks leading up to the shooting and Mrs Williams was considered at “high risk” from her husband.
Police dealt with seven calls to the control room between July 9 and August 18 and Mrs Williams visited her local police station twice.
A total of 24 officers were involved with the family before the shooting and 34 up to the time of Jack’s death.
The police tried and failed to get Mr Williams remanded in custody, although psychiatric assessment said this was not needed, and the offence with which he was charged – assault by beating – was not an imprisonable offence. He was granted bail and shot his wife seven days later.
While he was on bail, Mrs Williams’ family contacted police twice claiming Mr Williams had breached his bail – attending a gym in the area he was banned from entering, and going to the marital home and pouring bleach on his wife’s clothes.
Report calls for key changes
THE report makes several recommendations, including writing to the Home Office to ask if courts could consider the views of victims when granting bail to those facing charges in the criminal courts.
It also recommends making sure all agencies are involved when considering the risk of children living with domestic violence and ensuring information about people identified as posing a risk to others is shared across all services.
It says the Aneurin Bevan Health Board should make sure adults who attempt suicide are given the appropriate support once discharged from hospital and Gwent Police should consider creating a single domestic violence team to enable a clear focus on it as a serious crime in its own right.
The report reveals Gwent Police have already introduced better intelligence and information sharing through their daily management meetings where decisions about proactive steps to protect victims are made.
It says this, coupled with further training for call handlers and officers on domestic abuse, should avoid the mishandling of calls and information, which occurred in this case.
ARGUS COMMENT: Failed by the system
“TRAGICALLY there are lessons to be learnt, but sadly at the cost of my beautiful son.”
The words are from Rachel Williams in response to an official report into the deaths of her estranged husband, who shot her in a Newport hair salon, and her teenage son.
The report highlights a number of failings from professionals from a number of agencies who had dealt with the Williams family in 2011.
Hindsight is, of course, a wonderful thing but the report into the death of 16-year-old Jack Williams suggests there was a lack of communication between agencies and a failure to properly appreciate the impact a tragic chain of events had on the youngster’s state of mind.
Darren Williams had shot Rachel before taking his own life in nearby woodland. Jack was found hanged in the same spot six weeks later.
It is a terrible tragedy that has torn a family in two.
Today’s report basically says the professionals dealing with the Williams family in the aftermath of the shooting and suicide did not talk to each other. Police twice referred their concerns about the teenager to social services but no action was taken. A child psychiatrist helping Jack was not told by police of incidents outside his grandmother’s house.
The people who were meant to be helping Jack simply did not share vital information.
We have no doubt they were trying to do their best for Jack.
But they did not give him the help he so desperately needed.
And the lessons fromthis tragedy must improve matters in the future