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Theodore Johnson jailed for 26-year minimum term after killing third female partner

By Andrew Turton | Wolverhampton | Crime | Published:

A man has been jailed for a minimum of 26 years for killing his third partner - three decades after pushing his first wife off the balcony of their flat in Wolverhampton

Theodore Johnson

Theodore Johnson served a three-year sentence after being found guilty in 1981 of the manslaughter of his wife Yvonne.

She fell from the ninth-floor balcony of their flat in Franchise House, Blakenhall.

Today he was sentenced to life behind bars for killing his third victim whom he met while on day release from a secure mental hospital.

Violent and "controlling" Johnson, 64, kept his relationship with Angela Best a secret from authorities for 15 years and did not let on about his past to his new partner until after she confronted him with letters about it.

When she left him and started a new relationship, he attacked the 51-year-old mother-of-four and grandmother, beating her over the head with a claw hammer and throttling her with her leopard print dressing gown belt.

He then jumped in front of an express train at Cheshunt station in Hertfordshire.

As he was being treated for severe injuries, police went to his flat and found Ms Best dead in the living room.

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Johnson, who is now confined to a wheelchair, pleaded guilty at the Old Bailey to murdering Ms Best on December 15, 2016, and was jailed for a minimum term of 26 years.

"Sustained, vicious and utterly brutal"

Judge Richard Marks QC said: "The attack by you on Angela Best was sustained, vicious and utterly brutal. She suffered an unimaginably terrible death."

Johnson's crime was aggravated by the fact it was his third killing of a female partner and that he repeatedly lied and concealed from authorities that he was with Ms Best.

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Prosecutor Mark Heywood QC said Johnson had a violent history towards the women in his life, having been convicted of manslaughter twice before.

In 1981, he was was found guilty by reason of "provocation" of killing his wife Yvonne. He claimed he had been bullied by his then wife.

Then, in 1993, a couple of years before meeting Ms Best, he was convicted of strangling his common law wife Yvonne Bennett with a belt at their home in London before trying to hang himself.

He was found to be suffering from depression and a personality disorder and was handed a hospital order with restrictions at the Old Bailey.

Yvonne Johnson

In September 1994, Johnson was allowed out of his psychiatric unit for the first time on escorted community parole and in mid-1995, he was given unescorted leave to spend two days a week at a City and Guilds course on furniture restoration.

It was there in 1996 that he met Ms Best, who had moved to Tottenham, north London, from Manchester.

But he kept his past secret from his partner, and was let out by a mental health tribunal in October 1997.

He was released on condition he agree to supervision in the community and alert doctors and social workers if he formed any new relationships, which he repeatedly failed to do.

Mr Heywood said: "The tribunal recorded Mr Johnson was well aware of the need for extreme caution with regard to any further relationship with women.

"That decision having taken place on October 30 1997, by then Mr Johnson had effectively been in a relationship with Ms Best for about a year or so during his unescorted release from secure accommodation."

The court heard that during a home visit, authorities spotted a "feminine wood carving" spelling out "Love" on the mantelpiece but did not become suspicious and also did not find Ms Best's leopard-print dressing gown.

Jamaican national Johnson was last seen by a social worker and psychiatrist on December 8 2016 - days before the murder - and was not found to be depressed and continued to deny being in a relationship.

He had an appointment two days before Ms Best's murder but it was put off because his social worker was sick.

Ms Best only found out he had killed a previous partner when she discovered letters about it and confronted him, the court heard.

Abusive and "controlling"

During their relationship, Johnson had been abusive and "controlling" and had punched her more than once, the court heard

In September 2016, the couple split up and Ms Best was said to be the "happiest" she had ever been after finding love with someone else even though Johnson continued to profess his "undying love daily".

On the morning of December 15 2016, Ms Best had gone to Johnson's home to help with an appointment with the Jamaican embassy.

Mr Heywood said: "Soon afterwards he attacked her. That attack was brutal and merciless. He struck her repeatedly around the head even as she tried to protect her head with her hands. He then tied a dressing gown cord around her head and knotted it.

"He did it, the prosecution say, for a simple reason - because after all that time that had gone before she was no longer prepared to stay with him."

After killing Ms Best, Johnson was seen to topple forward into the path on the oncoming 3.18pm express service, severing both arms.

When officers went to his flat in Dartmouth Park Hill in Islington, north London, Ms Best's body was discovered on the floor of the living room, near a bloodstained claw hammer.

A post-mortem examination found she had suffered at least six blows to the head with the hammer and been strangled.

Mr Heywood said Johnson was born in Jamaica and came to Britain in 1980 and worked at a car repairer's, shortly before killing his first wife in 1981.

Angela Best's relatives pay tribute to the "life and soul of our family"

Ms Best's sister, Valerie Archibold, said preparations for a joyful Christmas were destroyed when the family learned of her "brutal and heinous murder".

She described Ms Best was a generous and loyal person and the "life and soul of our family".

The impact of her death was "immeasurable", she said. "The shock still remains and the loss is traumatising, immense, profound and utterly devastating."

Her son Raphael Best said: "My mother was the type of person who was always going out of her way to help people and unfortunately that was the reason she met her demise."

The loss of his mother was "slowly driving me crazy", he added: "It makes me feel 10 times worse when I think of the kind person my mother was."

Mitigating for Johnson, Annette Henry QC said her client was likely to die behind bars.

She said: "He does not wish to be alive. He hates himself for what happened. We recognise the devastation felt by the family members."

She said the mental health tribunal's condition on Johnson's release was flawed as it relied on "self reporting" any new relationship.

She said: "This was a dilemma and the tribunal found it was fraught with difficulty in trying to monitor."

Judge Marks said: "This was a deception that must have gone on for something like 15 years."

Camden and Islington NHS Trust, which was responsible for Johnson's care in the community since 2004, said it would provide Ms Best's family with an independent report and that Johnson's treatment complied with conditions set by the Mental Health Tribunal which oversaw his discharge in 1997.

Andrew Turton

By Andrew Turton
Digital Journalist

Digital journalist based at the Express & Star's head office in Wolverhampton. Interested in breaking news and social media. Get in touch on Twitter @aturton_star or andrew.turton@expressandstar.co.uk

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