Angela Best murder: Theodore Johnson jailed for life as Islington charity calls for domestic violence ‘attitude change’
- Credit: Archant
Serial killer Theodore Johnson was this afternoon sentenced to life in prison – a minimum 26 years – for murdering ex-partner Angela Best in Dartmouth Park Hill, Tufnell Park.
Johnson, 64, was expressionless as he was wheeled away from court in his wheelchair at the Old Bailey. Johnson threw himself in front of a train after the murder on December 15, 2016, but survived.
Judge Richard Marks said of Ms Best: “She suffered an unimaginable and terrible death.”
Johnson beat and strangled the 51-year-old at his home in Dartmouth Park Hill. Ms Best, who he met in the mid-1990s, was the third partner he had killed. He was also convicted of separate manslaughters – a charge lesser than murder in terms of punishment – in 1981 and 1993. In 1997, Johnson successfully applied for a conditional discharge from a hospital order imposed as part of the 1993 conviction. One of the conditions was to alert authorities to any relationship with a woman, which he failed to do for years.
On Tuesday, he admitted Ms Best’s murder, having initially intended to plead manslaughter again.
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Speaking to the Gazette after Johnson’s sentence was passed, Mary Mason, CEO of Islington domestic violence charity Solace Women’s Aid, called for a change in attitude towards female domestic violence victims.
“The legislation is there,” she said, “it’s about how people see cases like this for what they are: misogyny in its worst form and the ultimate breach in humanity.”
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Prosecutor Mark Heywood had told the court at today’s sentencing hearing: “The defendant was effectively on licence in relation to his previous killing when he entered into a very long-term relationship with Angela Best.
“On December 15, Ms Best went to see the defendant at his home. Soon afterwards, he attacked her. It was brutal and merciless.
“He struck her repeatedly with a claw hammer. He then took a dressing gown cord and wound it around her neck. It caused her death.
“He did it because she was no longer prepared to remain with him, and had met another man.
“During the relationship he was at times controlling. On one occasion he punched her in the face. And at some stage Ms Best found letters that said the defendant had killed someone else. He admitted he had done this.”
Mr Heywood said the relationship came to an end in 2016. She met another man, and was said by her daughter to the “happiest she had ever seen her”.
The court heard Johnson, who sat through the entirety of today’s hearing with his head bowed, started to declare his love for her every day and threaten to kill himself with pills. “There are clear indications the defendant was using manipulation to get her back,” Mr Heywood said.
In the month before Ms Best’s murder, the court heard Johnson bombarded her with calls and texts. It led to her agreeing to meet him at his flat in Tufnell Park, where she was meant to be helping him with an appointment at the Jamaican embassy. The court heard he moved to the UK from the Caribbean country in 1980.
Mr Heywood read out a victim impact statement from Ms Best’s son, Raphael. He said: “We have been mentally scarred. It makes me feel 10 times worse when I know how kind she was. Some people deserve death, but not my mother.
“She went to go and help this person [Johnson] not knowing it was a trap to take her life. She still cared for that person and wanted to help him.
“It’s had a major effect. If I’m honest, it’s slowly driving me crazy.
“I have worked almost non-stop for 20 years, but now I’m unemployed and can’t even imagine going back to work. There are times I don’t want to go outside.”
Mr Best’s statement concluded: “She was the only person that understood me fully. She had patience and never gave up on me. She didn’t deserve to suffer the way she did.”
Annette Henry, defending Johnson, said: “From the outset, he has not wished to be alive. He hates himself for what has happened.
“We recognise the devastation felt by family members. He chose not to rely on psychiatric evidence gathered by the defence, albeit at a very late stage.
“He will lead an undoubtedly miserable existence. It’s doubtful he will be released alive.
“There was no pre-meditation. Voicemail messages don’t demonstrate an angry man at all. He doesn’t blame anyone else. He blames his personality failings.”
Of Johnson’s last minute guilty plea on Tuesday, Ms Henry added: “When all things said and done, there are many who don’t plead guilty, whether at the 11th hour and 59th minute or otherwise. He did. The family has been spared the ordeal of a trial.”
Passing sentence, Judge Marks told Johnson, who was wearing a grey tracksuit: “She was an exceptional woman. It’s clear that her family will never be the same again.
“It’s the measure of the sort of person she was that even though the relationship was over, she was prepared to take the time to assist you. She was to pay for that with her life.
“You attacked her in the most brutal fashion. The nature and ferocity of the attack leaves me in no doubt you intended to kill her.”
Ms Best’s sister, Lorraine Jones, said in a statement outside the court: “This convicted murderer tried to play the system as he has successfully done before.
“He used diminished responsibility as the cause for his murderous actions. This time, however, he has eventually pleaded guilty to murder after 12 months since his arrest and subjecting our family to unnecessary additional trauma.
“He has shown in all cases he was clearly of sound mind. He knew what he was doing when he planned and executed the horrific murder of our beloved Angela.”
Solace Women’s Aid’s Ms Mason, leader of the domestic violence charity in Brewery Road in the Cally, said: “We know two women a week are murdered by men within relationships. Society has not woken up to it.
“Johnson should have been properly sentenced the first time round. The first woman, he hit with a vase and pushed her from the ninth floor of a flat. Yet he was found guilty of manslaughter, not murder, and no proper sentence was given to him.
“He was a serious threat to women, and for the second woman he killed, he was only convicted of manslaughter on grounds of diminished responsibility. Why?
“We don’t need to change the law. It’s about changing society’s attitude. We need to see the murder of women in relationships being dealt with all force of the law.”
Anyone who is suffering domestic violence can receive support from Solace Women’s Aid. For more information, visit solacewomensaid.org.