Christina Edkins: the remarkable compassion shown to her mentally ill killer
THE Sun says Christina Edkins, 16, was “killed by the system”.
Phillip Simelane, 23, had been freed from prison. Despite his severe mental health issues, no-one thought it best to watch him.
Yesterday he was back in prison, starting a life sentence for killing Miss Edkins on a Birmingham bus. They had never met before.
Simelane admitted to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility at Birmingham Crown Court.
The Sun produces gory details of his crime:
As Christina sat down after boarding the bus, paranoid schizophrenic Simelane — a man described as a “ticking timebomb” — slouched seemingly asleep in the back seat. But Simelane swiftly stood up and moved to a seat directly behind her. Seconds later he stood again, clutching a kitchen knife he had pulled from a plastic bag. Chilling CCTV footage from the bus shows Simelane plunging the knife into Christina’s chest without uttering a single word. Then he calmly goes downstairs and gets off at the next stop.
It’s an horrific crime written up in the Penny Dreadful style. But, then, if it bleeds it leads. As a readerswrites on HoldTheFrontPage about the Bristol Post highlighting positive news:
“Ignore the focus groups, people love bad news. Nobody is going to sit down in a focus group and say ‘actually, I would like to read about more rapes and murders’. But the truth is people revel in the depravity of mankind. Look in your local bookshop – shelves and shelves of books devoted to the doings of killers and criminals. Not many books about people helping the elderly across the road. That is human nature. Ignore it at your peril.”
But are Simelane’s crimes as crime of the system, as the Sun says? The Sun finds a “source” to tell readers:
“People just didn’t join up the dots and realise what a threat to the public he was. He walked out of prison with no one keeping an eye on him and was like a timebomb waiting to go off. When it did an innocent teenage girl died.”
Having catalogued his previous violent and petty crimes we learn that he was sleeping on public transport in the city:
At 6am the driver approached him at the end of the route. Simelane said he wanted to stay on the bus because he was “homeless, cold and tired”. At around 7.15am Christina began her usual short walk from her home in Ladywood to catch the No9 at the top of Broad Street.
The driver who let him stay is not a part of the failed system. His was an act of kindness.
Apart from her and Simelane, the only other passenger upstairs was a boy of 14 listening to music on headphones. Christina briefly called out and the teenage lad went to her aid. As Simelane waited for the bus to reach the next stop the driver asked him: “What is all the fuss about upstairs? Simelane replied: “I think it’s a row about a Daysaver ticket.”
The cool killer.
In court, Mrs Justice Thirlwall told him:
“Anyone reading the facts of the case would be disturbed that you were living in the community with a severe illness with no mental help at all.”
The Sun does not reports other words uttered by the judge:
“At the time you attacked Christina you were suffering from a serious mental illness. Your mental function was wholly abnormal as a result of your mental illness. That is why you killed Christina – in your deluded state you thought she was a danger to you. It is difficult to understand how it came about that in December 2012 someone with your level of illness should have been sleeping rough with no one to look after you…
“On at least two occasions an experienced specialist registrar in psychiatry insisted you needed in-patient treatment. It was not made available to you. Those who gave statements – ordinary lay people – were of the view that you were mentally ill. The terrible reality is that Christina was the person who happened to be on the bus on the day you were overwhelmed by your illness.”
Simelane had once made death threats towards two other girls on a bus.
The Indy produces a short bio of the killer’s life:
Simelane, who was born in Swaziland, had been released from prison three months earlier after serving a 56-day jail term for vehicle and drugs offences. These were committed a week after completing a 101 day sentence for pointing a knife at his mother’s stomach and punching a police officer.
But because his crimes were considered minor he was not provided with professional support despite mental health experts placing “markers” on his file, including on the police national computer, indicating he may be a risk to himself.
Christina’s great uncle, Chris Melia, said the teenager should still be alive had her killer been watched:
“This man was released from prison on December 13, 2012. Why was the recommendation (made a few weeks earlier by mental health experts) that he be supervised after release whilst adjusting to life back in community, not followed up? We need to know why he was ever allowed out without supervision when he was identified as somebody who needed help.
“This man was wandering around and there was not enough care taken to keep the rest of society safe. The fact that a 16-year-old girl can get up early to catch a bus to travel to school and not be safe. Well, words fail me.
“I find it difficult to understand why, if people were saying that this guy needed help, he didn’t receive it. If he became more of a problem and held a knife to his mother’s stomach I would like to know why he was released without any conditions and to no fixed abode.”
In fact, the words used to describe the killer are full of compassion for his condition. The victim’s parents and loved ones are dignified. The bus staff were understanding, so too the judge. What’s peculiar is that the people who are expert in mental health issues, who had a say in the killer’s life, weren’t as understanding…