Murder PC must stay in jail

A serving police officer who brutally stabbed his former partner to death in her garden will serve at least 14 years behind bars for the killing.Owen Ernest Palmer was a 50-year-old PC in Norwich when he lay in wait for his ex-girlfriend, Christine Johnson, and launched a ferocious attack on her with CS gas and a knife.

A serving police officer who brutally stabbed his former partner to death in her garden will serve at least 14 years behind bars for the killing.

Owen Ernest Palmer was a 50-year-old PC in Norwich when he lay in wait for his ex-girlfriend, Christine Johnson, and launched a ferocious attack on her with CS gas and a knife.

He was convicted at Norwich Crown Court in March 1999 of murder and jailed for life by the judge, Mr Justice Moses.

Yesterday in a review of his case at London's Royal Courts of Justice, another High Court judge, Mr Justice Langstaff, ruled that Palmer should serve at least 14 years before being allowed to apply for parole.

And, even when that term has expired, Palmer could face many more years behind bars, as it will be down to him to convince the Parole Board he is safe to live in the community before being freed.

Palmer could not accept his break-up with Miss Johnson and began a campaign of “stalking” in 1998, pursuing her with telephone calls and letters.

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On August 14, 1998, he lay in wait for her as she returned from her usual Friday evening visit to a friend's house and, when she arrived, sprayed CS gas in her face and stabbed her repeatedly to the neck and body.

The ferocious attack severed her carotid artery and jugular vein and she died of those wounds.

Doctors said Palmer had been suffering from depression or an “adjustment disorder” at the time of the attack.

When he handed himself in to police, he had a pipe, towel and rope in his car - “indicative of a pre-planned suicide which he did not carry through,” the judge said.

After her death, Miss Johnson's father was afflicted with dementia, a condition which her mother blamed on the brutal murder of their daughter.

They were forced out of the home in which they planned to spend their retirement because she could not face going into her garden knowing that her daughter had been killed there.

In seeking a review of his case, Palmer's lawyers urged the judge to grant him a lesser minimum term - or tariff - than 14 years.

They suggested he had suffered from diminished responsibility at the time of the attack due to his psychological problems and pointed out comments made by the trial judge about his “usually gentle nature”.

They also said he had displayed “exemplary behav-iour” while in prison and had made good progress while inside.

But, setting the tariff at 14 years, the judge made particular reference to the brutality of the killing and the intent behind it. “The stab wounds inflicted by the knife were repeated and the final thrusts were delivered delib-erately to the vulnerable neck area of a partly incapacitated victim,” he said.

“Thus, this was a case in which there was plainly more than a fleeting intent to kill and the killing was, if intentional as the jury found, savage and brutal, and intended to be.”

When Palmer is released, he will remain on perpetual life licence, subject to recall to prison if he puts a foot wrong.

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