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Calls for law to be changed after Broadmoor killer Barry Williams is released without supervision

7 October 2014 Telegraph By Martin Evans, Crime Correspondent

A serious case review is launched after mass killer Barry Williams is able to disappear following his release from Broadmoor by changing his name to Harry Street.

There have been calls for an urgent review of the law after it emerged that a loophole allowed a convicted mass killer, who was let out of Broadmoor, to change his identity and slip back into society without supervision.

Barry Williams, 70, who shot five people dead following a neighbourhood dispute in 1978, was released from the secure mental hospital in 1994 after it was deemed he was no longer a risk to the public.

After changing his name to Harry Street, he effectively disappeared off the radar of the authorities and was only prevented from carrying out another massacre when police, who were investigating a similar neighbourhood spat, discovered an arsenal of weapons at his home.

It was only then his true identity was revealed and now a judge has ordered him to be detained indefinitely at a secure mental hospital for a second time, after he admitted a number of firearms offences.

Street, who is married with a daughter, had been living in obscurity in the Hall Green area of Birmingham, despite being responsible for one of the most shocking mass murders of the last 40 years.

One the evening of October 26 1978, Williams, who was a gun obsessive, snapped following a long running row with his neighbours over noise.

Walking out of the house he shared with his parents Hilda and Horace, he calmly approached father and son George, and Philip Burkitt, who were working on their Spitfire car next door.

In five minutes of devastating violence he opened fire on the Burkitts, shooting 47-year-old builder George above the left eye and then pumping more bullets into his chest and side as he lay dying.

Terrified Philip, 20, tried to escape but was blasted five times, sending him smashing through the front window.

As George’s wife, Iris, dashed outside to see what was happening, Williams shot her through the heart in a hail of bullets.

He finally turned the gun on 17-year-old Jill, who was cowering in hallway of the house, blasting her once in the chest, three times in the back and then in the leg and arm.

She collapsed alongside her mother but miraculously survived despite suffering horrific injuries.

Judy Chambers, another neighbour and Iris Burkitt's cousin, opened her front door to see what was happening and was shot twice – but also survived.

Williams then took police on a 100mph chase across the Midlands whilst shooting and throwing homemade bombs at passers-by including children.

Pulling up at a petrol station in Nuneaton he approached the owners Mike Di Maria, 58, and his wife, Liza, 53, who had just collected a flask of coffee for her husband.

They were murdered in front of horrified drivers when Street fired five bullets through the kiosk door without warning.

It was not until the following day that police managed to corner Williams in Derbyshire town of Buxton, where unarmed officers overpowered him in front of 100 children queuing to watch Grease at a cinema.

Appearing at Stafford Crown Court in 1979, Williams was detained indefinitely after admitting five counts of manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility.

He was sent to Broadmoor, where he was diagnosed with 'paranoid psychosis.'

But incredibly just 15-years later, after convincing a mental health tribunal that he was no longer a danger to the public, the man who had massacred five innocent people and terrified an entire community was released from Broadmoor and allowed to rejoin society.

Initially he moved into a hostel just six miles away from the scene of the killings but when locals found out that he was back there was uproar and he was forced to flee to North Wales.

There he changed his name to Harry Street and after a short spell in Kidderminster moved back to Birmingham, settling in Hall Green.

For a while all remained calm, but with little supervision from the authorities, his paranoia soon returned, and he began to wrongly believe that his neighbours were once again deliberately trying to provoke him.

A minor dispute over a loud party proved enough of a catalyst for him to begin plotting revenge and he once again began to stockpile weapons, including an improvised explosive device (IED)

He would regularly contact the police making all manner of allegations against his next door neighbour, Warren Smith, but with no record of a Harry Street on the police system officers were not too concerned and eventually the Smith family moved.

However when he turned up at the Smith’s new home, “snarling like a canine”, one diligent West Midlands police officer was concerned enough to start digging into his background more thoroughly.

It was then that the police made the horrifying discovery about his past and immediately ordered a search of his home.

There they discovered a terrifying arsenal of weapons including a .22 pistol, a revolver as well as an IED.

Police also discovered a significant volume of homemade bullets as well as three other legally held guns and anti-aircraft shells on his bedside table.

Street told police he kept the guns as a “hobby” and even test-fired them into an Argos catalogue.

The son of two of Williams’ victims said the system needed an urgent review.

Antonio Di Maria, whose parents were gunned down at their petrol station in Nuneaton said: “It is the victims who get the sentence, not the criminals.

"He has probably had a better life than I have had. He got nothing for what he did to us and the other families.

"The law of the land is no good. The torment that families have to go through does not stop.

"My children have grown up but not in the way that they should have. I have not let them go out as often as perhaps I would have and I have sat and worried about what would happen to them.

"All I hope now is that I can outlive him and when he does die I intend to find out where he is buried, so that I can have a party on his grave.

"He has robbed my family and other families of so much and I now just want to see him dead."

A former MP, who voiced concerns over Williams’ original release, 20-years ago, last night said the case raised a number of worrying issues which should be urgently addressed.

Lord Snape, who used to represent the area of Birmingham, where Williams lived also said: “One of the many worrying aspects of this case is that this man was released after 15 years of 'indefinite' detention, changed his name, moved back to literally within a tram ride of his former address and developed exactly the same pattern of irrational hatred of his neighbours, whilst acquiring guns, ammunition and home-made bombing material.”

He went on: “It is surely a matter of concern that someone as dangerous as this was considered to be safe enough to be released in the first place.

“It beggars belief that he could subsequently change his name, move back to the area close to the original killings, accumulate an arsenal of deadly weapons and perhaps come very close to repeating the terrible events of 1978.”

Harry Fletcher, a former assistant general secretary at the probation union, Napo, and now director of the Digital-Trust, a charity that campaigns against online abuse, said there needed to be a complete review of the system that allowed people detained under the mental health act to be released without proper supervision.

He said: “This loophole needs to be looked at with some urgency. People who are deemed no longer a risk to the public walk free and are not subjected to the same scrutiny as prisoners who are released on licence. There should be some discretion for judges at the point of sentencing to say, if you are released from a secure hospital then you can be transferred to a prison to continue your sentence.”

A spokesman for the Birmingham and Solihull NHS Trust, which should have been supervising Williams, said in a statement: "Harry Street was released on a conditional discharge, subject to specific conditions, in 1993 by a Mental Health Tribunal, an independent judicial body, after careful consideration of the medical evidence presented to them.

"In cases such as this it is usually a condition of discharge set by the Mental Health Tribunal, that there is regular supervision and monitoring by mental health professionals, with reports being made at regular intervals to the Ministry of Justice.

We can advise that since the introduction of Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA) under the Criminal Justice Act 2003, we have worked with other local agencies under those arrangements to manage patients who pose a serious risk of harm to the public.

"The Strategic Management Board of the West Midlands MAPPA is undertaking a Serious Case Review on a discretionary basis, to identify any lessons from this case. It would not be appropriate for our Trust to comment any further until this review is complete."

Detective Chief Superintendent Kenny Bell of West Midlands Police said: “There was no trace of Harry Street on any police systems; but it is thanks to the tenacity of a local police officer who, when the harassment escalated, made extensive checks which led her to Street's GP and his true identity.

“Immediate steps have already been taken to ensure that all relevant information is shared and is accessible. A MAPPA Serious Case Review has been commissioned and I am determined that lessons will be learned.”

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