Prisoner admits killing female custody officer by kicking her in head

Prisoner admits killing female custody officer, 54, by kicking her in the head ‘like a football’ as she escorted him from court

  • Humphrey Burke, 28, kicked Lorraine Barwell twice during attack in June 2015
  • Attack happened while Burke was being escorted from Blackfriars Crown Court
  • Ms Barwell, a grandmother, from Romford, Essex, died two days later on July 1
  • Burke had previously been mentally unfit to stand trial over death of Ms Barwell
  • Today Burke admitted manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility

A prisoner who killed a female custody officer by kicking her head ‘like a football’ during an attack more than five years ago has today admitted her manslaughter.  

Humphrey Burke, 28, caused Lorraine Barwell ‘catastrophic’ brain injuries by twice kicking her in the head in June 2015.

The attack happened while Burke was being escorted from Blackfriars Crown Court, London, in handcuffs after appearing to be sentenced for attempted robbery, criminal damage and arson.

The first blow knocked the 54-year-old grandmother to her knees and the second fractured her jaw, causing a brain haemorrhage. 

Ms Barwell from Romford, Essex, died two days later on July 1, after her life support machine was switched off.  

Burke, who dropped out of a law and philosophy course at Oxford Brookes University in 2014, had previously been mentally unfit to stand trial over the death.

After the attack on Ms Barwell, he was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and was initially found unfit to stand trial. 

He had been handed a hospital order after a jury found he had caused her Ms Barwell’s 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. 

Humphrey Burke, 28, caused Lorraine Barwell ‘catastrophic’ brain injuries by twice kicking her in the head in June 2015

Ms Barwell from Romford, Essex, died two days later on July 1, after her life support machine was switched off.

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’.

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

The Recorder of London, Judge Mark Lucraft QC, adjourned sentencing to January 11 next year.

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

An Old Bailey jury found in 2016 Burke had carried out the acts of kicking Ms Barwell to the head causing her death after a trial of the facts. 

Mr Justice Rabinder Singh said after the trial of the facts: ‘This case is on any view a tragic one.

‘Lorraine Barwell was an employee of Serco acting as a prison custody officer at Blackfriars Crown Court.

‘By all accounts she was someone dedicated to her job, she was clearly close to her family who loved her.’

The judge continued: ‘Lorraine Barwell was doing her job at Blackfriars Crown Court when on 29 June 2015, as the jury have found in this case, she was kicked by the defendant in such a way which caused her serious injuries leading to her death.

The attack happened while Burke was being escorted from Blackfriars Crown Court (pictured), London, in handcuff after appearing to be sentenced for attempted robbery, criminal damage and arson

‘She was sustained by the hospital for about two days but was eventually pronounced dead on 1 July.

‘It is important to emphasis that what has taken place in this court this week is not a trial at which there would be a determination of whether the defendant is guilty of a criminal offence.’

Mr Justice Singh explained the hospital order was not a punishment and indicated Burke could be tried for murder in the future if his condition improves.

The court heard Burke had behaved ‘in an unpredictable manner’ during previous incidents in court and in custody and his file was marked as a ‘three man unlock.’

But on 29 June that year he was taken from his cell at Blackfriars Crown Court by Ms Barwell together with Marlene White-Brown and another Serco officer who was in her first day on the job.

When Ms Barwell cuffed herself to Burke to lead him from the cell towards the van, Burke suddenly slumped to the ground and lay on the floor.

‘He was just on the floor with this grin on his face,’ said Ms White-Brown. ‘It wasn’t a smile. It was just a horrid grin on his face.’

Burke was then dragged fully into the corridor outside the cell and three male Serco officers arrived to cuff his hands behind his back.

He was hauled to his feet and then turned towards the gate leading out to the prison van.

Prosecutor Duncan Penny QC said at the 2016 trial: ‘A total of three male officers then attempted to get the defendant to his feet and to stand him upright.

‘The defendant began to struggle and was taken back to the floor and restrained in a prone position. He was handcuffed behind his back and invited to stand up. He refused to do so.

‘The male officers then attempted again to get the defendant to his feet.

‘As he was standing up the defendant was bent forward while Lorraine Barwell was standing in front of him attempting to control his head.

‘Once on his feet the defendant was kicking behind him without making contact.

‘He then appears to have lunged forwards and managed to kick out twice at Lorraine Barwell who was initially in front of him.

Burke was then dragged fully into the corridor outside the cell and three male Serco (pictured: Library image of a Serco van) officers arrived to cuff his hands behind his back

‘It is not clear whether the first kick connected with her head or torso or her legs but it was delivered with sufficient force to knock her to the ground.

‘She was either on her knees or crouched down when the second kick was delivered.

Custody officer Gia Sofokli, who was standing feet away described how it ‘looked like a footballer kicking a football really hard’.

‘Many of the witnesses described the noise of it striking her head,’ the prosecutor continued.

‘It became immediately obvious that she was badly injured.’

Medical assistance was summoned but her condition deteriorated and she suffered ‘catastrophic brain injuries’.

The postmortem revealed a sub arachnoid haemorrhage, injuries to the right side of her face and fractures to her lower jaw.

Burke, formerly of Friars Wharf, Oxford, denied and was acquitted of murder, and admitted manslaughter due to diminished responsibility.

Source: Read Full Article