Harold Wood prison custody officer killed by kick to the head, court hears

Lorraine Barwell was a custody officer working for Serco

Lorraine Barwell was a custody officer working for Serco - Credit: Archant

Custody officer Lorraine Barwell died after she was kicked in the head by a prisoner she was helping to escort from Blackfriars Crown Court, a jury heard today.

Humphrey Burke, 23, was found unfit to stand trial after being charged with murdering Ms Barwell, 54, of Harold Wood.

A jury at the Old Bailey will not return a verdict of guilty or not guilty but will decide whether Mr Burke, who has been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, carried out the act in a “trial of the facts”.

Prosecutor Duncan Penny QC told the first day of the hearing that Mr Burke was being restrained by three other Serco guards and had his hands secured behind his back at the time of the assault, on June 29 last year.

The guards were trying to get Mr Burke, formerly of Oxford, to his feet after he had gone limp and fallen to the floor.

Mr Penny said: “Once on his feet the defendant was kicking behind him without making contact.

“He then appears to have lunged forwards and managed to kick out twice at Lorraine Barwell, who was initially in front of him.

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“It is not clear whether the first kick connected with her head or torso or her legs but it was delivered with sufficient force to knock her to the ground.

“She was either on her knees or crouched down when the second kick was delivered.”

Medical assistance was summoned but Ms Barwell’s condition deteriorated and she suffered “catastrophic brain injuries”.

She died two days later, on July 1, when her life support machine was turned off.

The hearing continues.