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British Airways captain who bludgeoned millionaire wife must stay in prison, judge rules

Robert Brown
Robert Brown has refused to engage in rehabilitation in jail, the court was told - PA

A British Airways captain who bludgeoned his millionaire wife to death more than 13 years ago will remain in prison after failing to overturn the Justice Secretary’s decision not to free him.

Robert Brown beat 46-year-old Joanna Simpson to death with a claw hammer in their family home in October 2010 as their two young children cowered in a playroom.

Brown, now 60, was cleared of murder after a trial, but admitted manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility, citing stress from the break-up of his marriage as a factor in the decline of his mental health.

He killed Ms Simpson one week before their divorce was due to be finalised, and dumped her body in a makeshift coffin in Windsor Great Park.

He had been due to be freed on licence at the halfway point of his 26-year jail sentence before the Justice Secretary intervened last October.

The ‘most horrific crime’

On Wednesday, Brown’s High Court challenge to the Government move was dismissed by Mr Justice Ritchie.

Diana Parkes, Ms Simpson’s mother, said the decision was the right one.

Mrs Parkes, who was made a CBE in December for services to vulnerable children suffering from domestic abuse and domestic homicide, added: “Brown committed the most horrific crime against my loving and caring daughter, Jo. He must be kept in prison.”

Joanna Simpson
Joanna Simpson was attacked and killed with a claw hammer - Thames Valley Police/PA

Alex Chalk, the Justice Secretary, said Brown’s “cowardly, senseless attack” had caused “irreparable harm” to Ms Simpson’s family.

He added: “Public protection is my number one priority which is why I blocked Robert Brown’s automatic release using powers we introduced to keep offenders who still pose a risk behind bars. I am pleased the High Court has dismissed his claim on all grounds.”

Mr Chalk’s intervention followed a campaign by the family and friends of Ms Simpson for the Government to keep him in prison. The campaign was backed by Carrie Johnson, the wife of Boris Johnson.

Brown, who was jailed in 2011, claimed that “political motivation” amid a media campaign against his release improperly contributed to Mr Chalk’s decision to refer his case to the Parole Board.

His lawyers argued at a hearing in London earlier this month that the referral was unlawful.

Killer a high risk, said judge

However, the judge wrote there were “good grounds for believing” that Brown posed a “high risk to the public of serious harm” on his release, and needed full and proper assessment.

The judge had been told that Brown believed he was “stitched up” by a prenuptial agreement and was affected by stress linked to his divorce.

His legal team said the risk posed by Brown had not increased and that he had been “subjected to a high-profile campaign through the media and with politicians that have sought to block his release”.

The Ministry of Justice rejected the allegations, and lawyers for the department said Brown had  “persistently refused to engage in the rehabilitative elements of his sentence”.

Brown, formerly of Winkfield, Berkshire, was sentenced to 24 years for manslaughter and a further two years for an offence of obstructing a coroner in the execution of his duty.