Inquest concludes that fatal stabbing of Bathsheba Shepherd could have been prevented

Monday 5 October 2020

Kay’s family was represented by Sarah Hemingway of the Garden Court Chambers Inquest and Inquiries Team and Aimee Brackfield and Claire MacMaster of Simpson Millar.

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The family of a vulnerable woman who was killed by her housemate while in supported accommodation have spoken of their loss after an inquest found that her death could have been prevented if effective risk assessments had been carried out.

Bathsheba Shepherd, known to her family as Kay, sustained fatal injuries when she was stabbed by Emmanuel Willems in the flat that they shared in Uxbridge in November 2015.

Following her death, a serious incident investigation was carried out that highlighted a number of concerns. The Coroner will be writing a Prevention of Future Deaths report that is expected to be published in the coming weeks.

Kay’s family was represented by Sarah Hemingway of Garden Court Chambers and Aimee Brackfield and Claire MacMaster from Simpson Millar. The nine day inquest took place earlier this month at West London Coroners’ Court in person, following which Ms Brackfield said:

“While it has been extremely difficult for the family to accept that Ms Shepherd’s death could have been prevented, they welcome the coroner’s conclusion, as well as the comprehensive narrative and recommendations for change that have been made. 

“It is their hope that as a result of the investigations that have taken place and the lessons that have been learnt that no one should suffer as they have moving forward.

Other Interested Persons represented at the inquest were Central and North West London NHS Trust, Hestia (support provider), Hillingdon Borough Council, Notting Hill Genesis Housing Association, and the Metropolitan Police Service. 

In the narrative conclusion handed down on September 11th, the Coroner concluded that “Bathsheba Bianca Kay Shepherd was unlawfully killed probably sometime after 06.30 am on the 11th November 2015. Had she and her housemate not been allocated to live together and had effective risk assessments of them and their relationship been reliably and regularly conducted then she would not have died on that date and or in the manner she did".

Diagnosed with a range of medical and mental health issues, Kay Shepherd, 50 years old, was provided housing in Uxbridge by Hillingdon Accommodation and Floating Support Panel (Adult Mental Health) in October 2014. Ms Shepherd was assessed as requiring floating support from a support worker at charity Hestia, who were meant to meet with her weekly.

Emmanuel Willems, who also suffered with mental health concerns and had a history of drug abuse, moved into the flat several months later.

In the months that followed, there were significant and recurrent issues between the housemates, including rising tension about problems with the boiler in the property which resulted in the lack of heating and hot water.

This led to Mr Willems expressing delusionary thoughts about Ms Shepherd, and in July 2015, Mr Willems stabbed himself due to a significant deterioration in his mental health. While in hospital receiving treatment he disclosed to professionals that he could have stabbed Ms Shepherd instead.

Despite this, and growing evidence that the two were not getting along in the flat, Mr Willems was discharged back to their shared flat where the relationship remained strained.

Over the coming months during visits from his care coordinator to his flat he was found to be in possession of a large kitchen knife which he kept in his bedroom. No adequate action was taken relating to this.

On November 11th, 2015, he fatally stabbed Kay in the chest.

The findings, handed down by HM Assistant Coroner Dr Séan Cummings, follows the conviction of Emmanuel Willems who was found guilty of manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility on January 13th, 2017.

Speaking of the family’s heartache Mr Robert Adams said:

“The loss of Kay under such tragic and preventable circumstances continues to have a profound effect on our family even now, almost five years after her death.

“While we welcome the findings of the earlier serious incident investigation, we still had many unanswered questions about the circumstances which led to what happened.

“The inquest has provided some of those answers, and we thank the Coroner for his time in producing the subsequent narrative verdict and report for change.

“It is our hope that any lessons learnt and changes that are put in place are shared widely across the NHS, and that no one should suffer as we have in the future.

“We would like to thank everyone who has supported us during this difficult time.”

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