Convicted killer’s risk status was downgraded just months before he murdered Barnsley man after release from prison

A convicted killer who murdered a Barnsley man should not have had his risk status downgraded shortly before he left jail, a public protection expert has told an inquest.

John Gogarty was murdered in his Barnsley home by a convicted killer
John Gogarty was murdered in his Barnsley home by a convicted killer

Ian Birley killed 65-year-old John Gogarty at the OAP’s Wombwell home, Barnsley, in July 2015 by stabbing him 69 times.

Birley had been released from prison 18 months before the attack and was on licence after murdering another pensioner in 1995.

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Ms Pilgrim, who is now head of public protection for London, said: "In my professional assessment, I would not have reduced him prior to release from 'high' down to 'medium'."

She said Birley had two ‘problematic’ temporary releases in the run-up to his eventual release and his final release had been delayed for a number of months after he tested positive for cannabis.

Coroner Chris Dorries also asked Ms Pilgrim whether she thought Birley should have been recalled to prison after he received two warnings about breaching his licence conditions within six months of his release.

The court heard how he was warned about alcohol use and he also tested positive for methadone, as well as failing to keep appointments at a rehabilitation centre and failing to provide a urine sample.

Ms Pilgrim said: "Recall is around professional judgement. For me, I would have recalled."

But she stressed to the court that she would have wanted further information from the police and other agencies before making a final decision.

Ms Pilgrim said that MAPPA processes were not followed by agencies following Birley's release.

The inquest has heard how Birley and his girlfriend at the time, Helen Nichols, broke into Mr Gogarty's Marsh Street home and demanded his PIN before stealing his wallet and carrying out the brutal attack.

They took £500 from his bank account to service a drug debt Birley had incurred.

The inquest was told how Birley had previously killed a man called Maurice Hoyle in 1995 and was on licence for that offence when he committed the second murder.

He was released in December 2013 after serving six years longer than his 12-year minimum term.

Birley was given a whole-life jail sentence for Mr Gogarty’s murder in 2015, while Nichols was given a minimum 20-year term.

Giving evidence last week, Mr Gogarty's daughter, Nicola Gogarty, told the inquest: "In my heart I do believe that my dad would still be here had things been done."

The inquest is due to finish hearing evidence on Wednesday.