An inquiry into the rape and murder of a defenceless pensioner by a repeat offender has brought “no comfort” to her local community, a former charity colleague has said.
Registered sex offender Jason Graham raped and battered Esther Brown, 67, to death at her home in Glasgow’s Woodlands area in May 2021.
An independent inquiry into the case has concluded the murder “could not have been predicted or prevented”.
Graham – who repeatedly punched, kicked and stamped on Ms Brown’s head and body and struck her with pieces of wood from a chair – had previously been jailed for seven years for raping an older woman.
However, he was released on license just five years later, in 2018, and was being monitored as a sex offender when he attacked Ms Brown.
The brutal incident sparked uproar from politicians, campaigners and friends over how it had been allowed to happen, as well as calls for greater transparency around parole decisions.
Tim Cowen, who worked with Ms Brown at the Woodlands Community Development Trust, told STV News the review was a “missed opportunity to look at the need for wider reforms”.
“Esther Brown was an exceptionally kind, compassionate and caring woman who dedicated her life to helping others,” he said.
“Her death could have been prevented if we had a criminal justice system which put women at its heart, and which took rape and domestic violence more seriously.
“The short sentence that Mr Graham was given for his previous violent rape remains a cause of great upset for those who knew Esther.”
The significant case review offered 11 recommendations and 14 learning points for Police Scotland, Criminal Justice Social Work, the Health and Social Care Partnership (HSCP), the Scottish Government, the Scottish Prison Service and the NHS.
Graham had been drinking and smoking cannabis in a pub with family members on the day of the attack, and was kicked out of the bar at around 6pm when he began acting aggressively.
He said “I know when I’m not wanted” as he left, and was seen entering the lane Ms Brown’s home was on around an hour later.
The report said: “[Graham’s] level of intoxication, apparent anger and rejection resulting from the earlier altercation and parting company with family may have been the catalyst to the events which lead to the death of [Ms Brown].”
As part of his parole conditions, Graham was subject to a curfew but the report states that “the exact curfew restrictions imposed and any subsequent variations could not be established from agency records or meetings with staff”.
It also questioned why he had not been given an electronic tag in order to supervise his whereabouts and curfew compliance.
The reviewer stated: “Despite the fact a curfew was deemed necessary to assist in the risk management of [Graham], there was no supervision of this condition apart from [Graham’s] self reporting.”
The report added that “poor recording” of restrictions on his movement, as well as the last record of the curfew even having been discussed was in December 2018, showed it was not actively managed.
“An electronic tag would have been a significantly better option and would have eliminated several of the issues highlighted,” it said.
Mr Cowen said the review highlighted a number of “worrying failures and mistakes in the handling of this case”.
“But,” he said, “it is also a totally missed opportunity to look at the need for wider reforms.
“Its parameters should have been widened to examine conviction rates and sentences for sexual and domestic crimes, how such crimes were dealt with and whether protection services had sufficient resources to meaningfully monitor sex offenders.
“So sadly, this report is of no comfort to our community.”
Detective Superintendent Nicola Kilbane said: “Unfortunately nothing will bring back Esther and our thoughts remain very much with her family, friends and the community who loved and respected her.
“Jason Graham is currently serving life imprisonment as a consequence of his actions, and his actions alone.
“As a key MAPPA partner, we welcome scrutiny and the publication of the Significant Case Review. We note the findings and recommendations and will work in partnership with the other agencies to continue to protect our communities.
“We acknowledge that we will never be able to eliminate risk altogether however, the partnership uses the most robust risk assessment processes and technologies to manage Registered Sex Offenders and mitigate this risk as far as is possible.”