Northern Ireland news

Second probe ordered into killing of James Hughes by mentally ill man

James Hughes (62) was stabbed to death in his Divis Tower flat in west Belfast in November 2016 by a mentally ill neighbour. A second independent health service investigation has been ordered into the tragedy following failings in the initial one. His family believe his death was avoidable. Picture by Hugh Russell

NORTHERN Ireland’s biggest health trust has ordered a second investigation into the killing of a former nurse by his mentally ill neighbour over shortcomings with the first – including a failure to inform the victim’s family about the high level probe.

The Belfast health trust has confirmed that a new Serious Adverse Incident (SAI) probe will take place into the death of west Belfast man James Hughes, right, who was stabbed to death in 2016 at his flat in Divis Tower by paranoid schizophrenic James Devine.

The Irish News has learned that the trust has ordered the new review into the circumstances surrounding the “peace-loving” man’s death after his family raised concerns about major failings in the trust’s monitoring of their brother’s killer.

Mr Hughes’s sister Veronica Lillis said she believes her brother’s death was avoidable.

However, she said she feels “no bitterness whatsoever” towards James Devine and that the two men were both “victims of the system”.

Interview: Family of James Hughes killed by mentally ill neighbour round on health service over 'hidden' report

The family branded the trust’s handling of the case as “diabolical” after they discovered they were never made aware of – or included – in the initial review, known as a level 3 SAI.

It has emerged they are one of seven families in Northern Ireland who have lost loved ones and whose cases are being probed by the health service over the past three years due to suspected failings.

Delays and errors have now been identified in the SAI process itself.

“I think withholding the SAI from us is cruel and disrespectful to the family,” the victim’s brother Mickey Hughes said.

Analysis: Pledge to overhaul the SAI system must now be heeded

“We have gone through hell and we want changes to the mental health system to ensure this doesn’t happen again,”

The case comes a fortnight after the most senior official in the north’s health service, Richard Pengelly, apologised to a Co Armagh family who had demanded a fresh NHS probe into the “avoidable” killings of their parents, Michael and Marjorie Cawdery, after they branded the first one “shambolic”.

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