Prisoner admits manslaughter of custody officer

·2-min read
Prison custody officer Lorraine Barwell was killed by Humphrey Burke as she escorted him from court (handout/PA) (PA Media)
Prison custody officer Lorraine Barwell was killed by Humphrey Burke as she escorted him from court (handout/PA) (PA Media)

A prisoner has admitted killing a custody officer by kicking her in the head as she escorted him from court.

Humphrey Burke, 28, had previously been mentally unfit to stand trial over the death of 54-year-old Lorraine Barwell on July 1 2015.

He had been handed a hospital order after a jury found he had caused her “catastrophic” brain injuries following a trial of facts.

On Thursday, Burke appeared at the Old Bailey for a plea hearing before Judge Mark Lucraft QC.

He denied murder and pleaded guilty to manslaughter by reason of diminished responsibility.

Prosecutor Tom Little QC told the court that in light of a medical report, it was “one of those cases in which the Crown have taken the view, carefully considered, that there would not be a proper basis for seeking a conviction for murder”.

Humphrey Burke pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of female Serco guard Lorraine Barwell (Met Police/PA) (PA Archive)
Humphrey Burke pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of female Serco guard Lorraine Barwell (Met Police/PA) (PA Archive)

He added: “Our position is a plea that relies on the partial defence of diminished responsibility would be acceptable to the Crown.”

Judge Lucraft adjourned sentencing to January 11 next year.

Burke was further remanded into custody at the secure hospital where he has been held.

An earlier trial of facts had heard how Ms Barwell had worked for security firm Serco for more than 10 years.

Gia Sofokli, who had been shadowing her on her first day in the job, described the attack at Blackfriars Crown Court in London.

She had said: “He just literally pulled his leg back and kicked her…

“She screamed quite loud and then it was about two seconds before he swung again with his foot but this time it got her in the face.

“Her head went back but it did not smack the floor. It just snapped back.”

At the time, a psychiatric report had been prepared but no definitive diagnosis of mental illness had been made.

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