A South Tyneside mum, devastated by the brutal killing of her daughter, says her grief has been made worse by the release of an official review into the tragedy.
A Domestic Homicide Review says Gemma Finnigan was let down by a system in which a number of different agencies failed to communicate with each other.
The 24-year-old was strangled and stabbed repeatedly by her partner Daniel Johnson in the home they shared in Church View, Boldon, on September 13, 2013 – 17 years after he murdered a man in a street attack in Newcastle.
Johnson had been on day release from prison, where he had been serving a life sentence, when he had met Gemma in 2008, but Gemma’s family say they were never fully informed of what Johnson did.
The report says it cannot decide on what the family were told by probation officials because there are no official records of the conversations.
It also found prison medical records on Johnson – who suffered from a psychiatric illness and killed Gemma “after hearing voices” – were not passed on to his GP.
It is a big issue for me that they are saying I knew - I had no reason to keep his dirty little secret.Jennifer Finnigan
The report also said there was no contact between community offender management officials and his doctor after his release from prison.
Gemma’s mother, Jennifer Finnigan, says she has always believed Gemma had been let down by a number of agencies which she feels could have done more to protect her.
Johnson had been on day release from prison when he had met Gemma in 2008 but Ms Finnigan maintains the full extent of Johnson’s brutal stabbing of 33-year-old David Younas in 1996 was never made clear to her family.
She claims they were led to believe Johnson had been jailed after a schoolboy fight which had got out of hand leading to a person’s death.
The review highlighted a number of missed opportunities by the agencies involved with the couple – and no official records to what Gemma’s family were made aware of over his previous conviction.
It said: “The Offender Manager case-note recording relating to disclosure lacked exact detail and therefore it was not possible to fully evidence the level of detail shared with the victim’s family, in relation to weapons used and Johnson’s exact role in the murder offence.”
Ms Finnigan said: “I just go from angry to wanting to break down and cry. It is a big issue for me that they are saying I knew.
“I knew he had killed someone, but what I was led to believe and what happened are two completely different things.
“And I have no doubt that if I had been told the truth about his first killing, Gemma would still be here. I felt I needed to give him the benefit of the doubt as I thought it was a schoolboy fight that had gone wrong and I feel so guilty for thinking that.
“I feel they took my right as a mother to protect my daughter away from me by not telling me.”
The report concluded Gemma’s death “could not have been predicted” but due to lack of any documented robust risk assessment they were unable to reach a conclusion as to whether her death was preventable.
They also highlighted a number of “missed opportunities” to carry out assessments.
The report said: “The Review Panel felt due to the absence of any information sharing between Northumbria Probation Trust and the GP, there had been a significant missed opportunity to carry out a detailed risk assessment of the couple’s circumstances.”
It went on to say no referrals relating to Johnson had been made to children and families social care – as Johnson was in contact with children in Gemma’s family – and this should have happened.
The review panel explored the decision of the Parole Board to release Johnson in 2008 and concluded the decision had been made in “full knowledge” of all the available information.
The report revealed that, as part of Johnson’s licence conditions, he was to undergo regular drug testing.
However, only four were evidenced to have taken place.
The review panel considered this to be “a significant missed opportunity.”
Ms Finnigan added: “I keep reading the report over and over and I just can’t get my head round how much everyone has let Gemma down. If those agencies had communicated more with each other, maybe Gemma would still be here.
“Things need to change and agencies need to start communicating more with each other. For me, every single person who let Gemma down should be hanging their heads in shame.”
A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: “Our sympathies are with the victim’s family following this abhorrent and shocking crime.
“Public protection is our priority and high-risk offenders are kept under rigorous supervision.
“As this report recognises, we have already addressed the issues raised in this review and have changed working practices.”