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Serious case review finds murder of teenager in care home could have been prevented

Nearly three years after an 18-year-old from Dedworth was murdered in a residential care home, a serious case review has concluded her death could have been prevented.

In October 2014 Melissa Mathieson was strangled by Jason Conroy, a fellow resident at the home where she was living in Bristol.

Conroy was found guilty of her murder in October 2015 at Bristol Crown Court and sentenced to 19 years in prison.

Melissa had been diagnosed with ADHD and autism at a young age.

When she turned 18 she wanted to live in assisted accommodation but there was nowhere available in the Royal Borough.

She was sent to live in Bristol, something her family was not happy about.

Since her death, Melissa’s family has waited for a review of the issues surrounding her murder which was finally published by the Bristol Safeguarding Adults Board on Wednesday.

It was originally due to be published in spring last year. And while ‘waiting for an apology’ from the services involved in her case, Melissa’s mother Karen died, aged 54, on December 29, 2015.

At the time of her death her husband, James Mathieson, of Stuart Way, described it as ‘heartbreaking’ that her last thoughts had been of the review case.

Chairman of the review board Louise Lawton apologised to the family for the delay. She added the review was ‘particularly challenging’ and involved organisations outside Bristol, including the Royal Borough.

She said Melissa’s death was ‘particularly shocking and had a profound impact on everybody involved’.

“Sadly the review found Melissa’s death could have been prevented if better processes had been in place,” she said.

“At the heart of this review is a vulnerable young woman who lost her life and I hope the findings will help stop something like this from happening again.”

The review found the care home in Bristol should have been aware that Conroy had ‘a high risk of future physical and sexually harmful behaviour’ due to previous incidents, including the attempted strangling of a teacher with the aim of killing and having sex with her.

It states a ‘risk management strategy’ was not implemented by the home and it did not make use of a report outlining the risks of an attack by Conroy.

Regarding Melissa’s placement 97 miles from home, the report states the placement was ‘not ideal’ for her, adding: “It seems likely Melissa might not have required an out of area placement had her needs been met by local services.”

In his response to the findings, Mr Mathieson said: “I do not understand why more efforts were not made by social services to support the family or to take a bit more time to find a care home that was at least closer where we could help support her.”

He felt the area’s care services had wanted to ‘get Melissa out of the way’ once she was an adult.

He said if it was not for failings with ‘our own local social services and NHS trust’ Melissa would not have been sent to Bristol.

“What we never expected was for her to come home in a coffin,” he said.

The council’s managing director Alison Alexander extended the borough’s ‘deepest sympathies’ to the Mathieson family.

“The report provides details of what lessons have been learned and the council and health services in the borough have been active participants in the review to ensure these lessons are put into practice,” she said.

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