Theodore Johnson: 26-year sentence for triple killer who murdered ‘beautiful and loving’ grandmother in Dartmouth Park
Killer freed from psychiatric unit five years after claiming second victim
05 January, 2018 — By William McLennan
Victim: Angela Best was described as the “life and soul of the family”
A MAN convicted of killing two previous partners had been freed on the condition he inform authorities of any new relationship, but was able to conceal a girlfriend from officials for nearly 20 years until the day she became his third victim.
Theodore Johnson, 64, was today (Friday) jailed for a minimum of 26 years for his “sustained, vicious and utterly brutal” attack on 51-year-old Angela Best at his home in Dartmouth Park, after she left him and began a relationship with a new man.
His history of violence against women was made public on Monday after he pleaded guilty to murder, leading to calls for an inquiry into how he was free to kill for a third time.
His crimes are “almost unprecedented”
The Old Bailey heard that, having been sent to a secure psychiatric for his second killing in 1992, he was released under strict terms in October 1997.
Judge Richard Marks QC told him: “You were required to notify your medical and social supervisor of any new relationships with women and to accept that such disclosure would involve your past history being communicated to such a person.”
But Johnson had already begun a relationship with Ms Best while on day-release in the mid-1990s and went on to have a relationship spanning two decades. At no point did he tell his social worker or psychologist and even told that he “could not imagine having a relationship again”.
Judge Marks said: “This was a deception that must have gone on for something like 15 years. If he had reported, we may not be here today.”
Annette Henry QC, defending Johnson, said at the time a mental health tribunal imposed the condition they were aware that the “self-reporting” of relationships was “fraught with difficulties of how to monitor and police.”
She said that social workers making home visits had noticed a “feminine wood carving” spelling out “love”, but had not become suspicious. They also failed to notice a leopard-print dressing gown, believed to belong to Ms Best.
The murder scene in Dartmouth Park Hill
She said: “We do not seek to blame, it being a matter of how effectively to test what otherwise becomes self-reporting.”
She added: “Where there are lessons to be learned…they can and should be learned for the benefit of others.”
The court heard that Johnson claimed his first victim in 1981, when he killed his wife Yvonne Best, attacking her with an ashtray and a glass vase, before pushing her from the balcony of their ninth-floor flat in Wolverhampton.
The couple had two young sons. He stood trial accused of murder, but was convicted on the lesser grounds of manslaughter, on the basis of provocation.
The court heard he had been on the receiving end of a violent relationship and was sentenced to just three years imprisonment.
He met Yvonne Bennett in Wolverhampton sometime before 1996 and the couple moved to Finsbury Park, where they were lived together and had a daughter. Aged two-and-a-half, she was in another room in the small flat when Johnson strangled Ms Bennett to death after learning she intended to leave him for another man.
He handed himself in to police after a botched suicide attempt and later pleaded guilty to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility, after doctors agreed he had severe depression and a personality disorder.
He was given a hospital order, but freed in 1997 having agreed to inform authorities of any new relationships.
Ms Best and Johnson were together from the mid-1990s until late-2016, when she left him, having discovered details of his violent past.
On December 15 that year, she agreed to go to his house in Dartmouth Park Hill and help him attend an appointment at the Jamaican High Commission. Her offer of assistance was met with brutal violence.
He struck Ms Best, a mother-of-four and a grandmother, six times with a claw hammer and then strangled her with a dressing gown cord. He then drove to Hertfordshire and threw himself in front of a train, suffering massive injuries including the loss of his right arm and left hand.
He was rushed to the Royal London Hospital where doctors saved his life. He was charged with murder at the end of January last year after weeks of intensive care.
His barrister, Ms Henry, said: “He is 64 and he is likely to die in prison. Certainly he will be living a miserable and hopeless existence there. He does not expect anything different.”
Mr Johnson, who has sat motionless in a wheelchair throughout the hearing, attempted to stand and appeared to mumble the word “sorry” before being taken down to the cells.
Passing sentence, Judge Marks said that Johnson’s deceitful concealment of his relationship with Ms Best was a “very significant aggravating feature, as well as being an act of very considerable irresponsibility on your part having regard to your past history.”
He said: “The attack perpetrated by you upon Angela Best was sustained, vicious and utterly brutal. She suffered an unimaginably terrible death and there can be no doubt whatsoever that you intended to kill her.
“This is the third occasion when you have killed a female partner. Such repeated offending, resulting in three separate court cases, must be almost unprecedented.”
He said Ms Best’s family were “utterly destroyed and devastated by what you did”.
A statement by Ms Best’s sister, Valerie Archbold, described her as “an integral part of our family” and a “truly beautiful, gentle, loving, wonderful, fun, youthful, generous and loyal person – the life and soul of our family unit”.
Speaking outside court, her sister Lorraine Jones, said: “This convicted murdered tried to play the system as he has successfully done twice before. He used diminished responsibility for the cause for his murderous actions.”
She said the family had been subjected to “unnecessary additional trauma” over the past year while Johnson refused to admit his guilt, adding that he was “clearly of sound mind”.
“He knew exactly what he was doing when he planned and executed the horrific murder of our beautiful beloved Angela.”
“Despite our families immense pain and suffering our hearts and thoughts go out to the other two families whose have also suffered as a result of his evil and calculating actions.”
At the close of the hearing, Judge Marks paid tribute to the family, who he said had shown “impeccable restraint”.