Killer pilot’s release from prison blocked by Justice Secretary

Joanna Simpson was killed 13 years ago (Thames Valley Police/PA)
Joanna Simpson was killed 13 years ago (Thames Valley Police/PA)

A British Airways captain who bludgeoned his wife to death 13 years ago has had his automatic release from prison blocked by the Justice Secretary.

Robert Brown beat his wife Joanna Simpson to death with a claw hammer in their family home in October 2010, as their two young children cowered in a playroom.

Alex Chalk has confirmed he will use new powers to stop Brown being released automatically and instead get the case reviewed by the Parole Board.

Joanna Simpson murder
Robert Brown killed his wife in 2010 (Thames Valley Police/PA)

The announcement marks a victory for Ms Simpson’s loved ones who have been calling for such a move.

Brown was cleared of murder, having admitted manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility, and was due to be released on licence next month after serving 13 years of a 26-year sentence.

Mr Chalk’s referral – which was enabled following changes introduced through the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 – overrides Brown’s automatic release.

The Parole Board, an independent body that carries out risk assessments on prisoners to determine whether they can be safely released, will make a decision on whether to release Brown in due course, the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) said.

Mr Chalk’s referral has been made under “power to detain” provisions.

These are designed to protect the public from dangerous offenders if they present a significant risk of causing serious harm that cannot be safely managed through usual licence conditions, the MoJ said.

Mr Chalk said: “Joanna Simpson was bludgeoned and buried at the hands of Robert Brown, which left two children without a mother and caused irreparable harm to her family and loved ones.

Justice Secretary Alex Chalk
Justice Secretary Alex Chalk blocked Robert Brown’s release (PA)

“I made a commitment to Joanna’s family that I would give this case my closest personal attention.

“Having reviewed all the information available to me, I have blocked Brown’s automatic release and referred this case to the Parole Board using powers we introduced to protect the public from the most dangerous offenders.”

Relatives and friends of Ms Simpson had called on Mr Chalk to block her killer’s automatic release and refer the case to the Parole Board.

Ms Simpson’s mother Diana Parkes said she is “delighted” by his intervention, and urged the Parole Board to “keep him in jail”.

“Having to continuously relive my daughter’s brutal killing is emotionally exhausting,” she said in a statement.

“We hope that the Parole Board will appreciate how dangerous Robert Brown is and we fear for the safety of our family, Jo’s friends and any female he may form a relationship with in the future.”

Last month, Ms Simpson’s best friend Hetti Barkworth-Nanton, who also chairs domestic abuse charity Refuge, told BBC Breakfast the prospect of Brown’s imminent release made her feel “physically sick”.

Reacting to the latest development, she said in a statement: “We appreciate (the Justice Secretary) looking at this case with his closest personal attention and realising that Robert Brown is a danger to the public.

“Whilst today has been a victory for Diana Parkes, Joanna’s children, myself and Joanna’s wider family and friends, we know the fight doesn’t and won’t end here, we now hope that the parole board sees the level of danger that Brown poses and makes the decision to block his release.”

Brown, formerly of Winkfield in Berkshire, was sentenced to 24 years for manslaughter and a further two years for an offence of obstructing a coroner in the execution of his duty.

He killed Ms Simpson one week before the finalisation of their divorce and dumped her body in a makeshift coffin in Windsor Great Park.

The Parole Board has been approached for comment.