Inquiry ordered after man killed partner hours after hospital release

James Kennedy killed Joanne Gallacher at his home in Biggar just hours after being assessed by a psychiatric nurse.

Mental care of man who killed mum-of-four hours after Wishaw hospital release to be probed Joanne Gallacher via Facebook

A new probe is to be opened after a man suffering from mental health issues stabbed a mum 57 times just hours after being released from hospital.

Joanne Gallacher died after being attacked by James Kennedy, who had previous psychiatric issues, at his home in Biggar, Lanarkshire, on December 21.

The mother-of-four had attempted to check on the welfare of Kennedy – who had earlier been admitted to Wishaw General Hospital after claiming to have ingested weed killer – following “concerns” about him being released.

The 32-year-old was discharged from the hospital that afternoon after being assessed by a psychiatric nurse.

Joanne, of East Kilbride, Lanarkshire, contacted the hospital and expressed concerns in relation to him being discharged before taking a taxi to his home.

The 33-year-old had earlier been Christmas shopping with her family in Glasgow.

When police arrived at the scene they found Kennedy covered in blood and Ms Gallacher’s body lying on the kitchen floor.

He later told police: “It was me that done it. There was not anyone else. I was in shock.”

In June 2019, Kennedy faced a murder allegation as he appeared at the High Court in Glasgow.

But, prosecutors accepted his guilty plea to the reduced charge of culpable homicide on the basis of diminished responsibility.

The court heard how Kennedy was suffering from an “abnormality of mind” at the time.

Lord Mulholland imposed compulsion and restriction orders for Kennedy to remain at the State Hospital at Carstairs.

The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) has now ordered a fatal accident inquiry (FAI) into Ms Gallacher’s death, with particular focus on the way Kennedy was managed and risk assessed by mental health services prior to his release.

The purpose of an FAI includes determining the cause of death, the circumstances in which it occurred, and to establish what, if any, reasonable precautions could have been taken, and could be implemented in the future.

A preliminary hearing will take place on July 12 at Hamilton Sheriff Court.   

Procurator Fiscal Katrina Parkes, who leads on death investigations for COPFS, said:  “The Lord Advocate considers that the death of Joanne Gallacher occurred in circumstances giving rise to significant public concern and as such a discretionary Fatal Accident Inquiry should be held.  

“An FAI will allow a full public airing of the evidence of the procurator fiscal’s wider investigations with interested parties.

“The evidence will be tested in a public setting and be the subject of an independent judicial determination.” 

Joanne’s mother, Louise Gallacher, from East Kilbride, said in a statement the last few years have “been a roller coaster” but welcomed the inquiry into her daughters death.

The 61-year-old said: “The first FAI hearing on July 12 would have been Joanne’s 38th birthday and that detail alone makes me sick to my stomach.

“Do people who organise FAIs not even think about the emotional impact of such things?

“Nonetheless, I am pleased this FAI is now going ahead but I’m obviously still devastated about why it’s going ahead.

“It’s not just Kennedy that’s responsible for Joanne’s death – there is serious gaps in process and care that contributed to this and that’s what we need to address to make sure something like this never happens again.

“The last few years have been a roller coaster so this FAI is the first sense of progress we’ve had.

“But ultimately Kennedy is still alive and Joanne isn’t, and no amount of hearings will ever change that.”

Gordon Dalyell, Partner at Digby Brown, added: “What happened to Joanne was a completely avoidable tragedy and we will continue to support and advise her family.

“We hope the FAI will reveal just what went wrong that day on December 22, 2018 and provide the answers the Gallacher family deserve, while making hospitals safer for the future.”

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