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Christina Edkins' family: 'Real change is needed'

A damning report into the killing of schoolgirl Christina Edkins has blamed a catalogue of failures by the authorities who could have kept her killer off the streets.

16-year-old Christina, from Birmingham, was stabbed in the chest as she travelled on a bus to her school in Halesowen last year.

The report says there had been a string of failures dating back 12 years from mental health services, police and the prison service in the region - and makes 51 recommendations.

Her attacker, paranoid schizophrenic Phillip Simelane, had chosen her at random.

The spokesman for Christina's family, Chris Melia, says they now want real change to prevent further deaths.


Mental health trust vows to improve after critical report

The mental health trust which dealt with convicted killer Phillip Simelane - who stabbed 16-year-old Christina Edkins to death on a Birmingham bus - has vowed to improve services in the future.

A homicide report into Christina's death criticised the Black Country Partnership NHS Foundation Trust for not liaising with Simelane's counsellors, only discussing his notes on a verbal basis, and for exercising an 'opt in' policy which discharged patients back to their GP if they did not contact the trust to make an appointment themselves.

CCTV footage of Simelane on the bus at the time of Christina's attack Credit: West Midlands Police

Trust chief executive Karen Dowman said the death of Christina was "a desperately sad and shocking event".

Her death affected a huge number of people, and I send my sincere condolences, on behalf of the Trust, to her family and to her friends for their terrible loss.

As one of the agencies that had been in contact with the perpetrator, Philip Simelane, we take today’s report very seriously and have committed to putting into effect the recommended changes to help prevent a similar tragedy from happening.

The report makes it very clear that more could have been done to prevent Philip’s mental health from deteriorating as it did. My sympathies also go out to his family for the distress they will have suffered.

Our trust is fully committed to carrying out all the changes recommended in the report, and some of this work has already been completed.

We have already phased out the use of ‘opt in’ letters in which a patient is asked to make an appointment. These letters were previously used for patients with minor mental health problems. In response to the report’s recommendations we are now proactively assessing all patients who are referred to us.

We are working to improve the way our services join up others, particularly external agencies, in the care of someone with severe mental illness. We will shortly be introducing electronic patient records which will enable teams across different parts of the service to access information more quickly.

Making these changes happen is a very high priority for our trust. We are committed to doing everything we can to prevent such a tragic death from happening in the future.

– Karen Dowman, Black Country Partnership NHS Foundation Trust

Police: Improvements made since Christina was killed

West Midlands Police's lead officer dealing with mental health issues has said improvements have been made since teenager Christina Edkins was stabbed to death.

Ch Insp Sean Russell said a series of recommendations had already been acted upon.

The report criticised authorities' handling of paranoid schizophrenic Phillip Simelane Credit: West Midlands Police

It comes after a homicide report criticised authorities in the region for not properly tackling the mental health problems plaguing paranoid schizophrenic Phillip Simelane, who attacked and killed the 16-year-old on a bus last year.

This was a tragic and deeply distressing case in which a young girl was killed by a man who, sadly, was not receiving the necessary support when he committed this appalling crime.

In the years prior to Christina’s death West Midlands Police had contact with the young man involved, in the form of repeated calls to his home regarding concerns around his behaviour and breaches of the peace. He was arrested multiple times.

On each occasion, including those which led to this young man appearing before the courts, the force acted in order to safeguard those affected by his crimes, whilst alerting partner agencies involved in offering support to such an individual.

We have worked with those agencies to conduct a review of the events prior to Christina’s death and have implemented all of the recommendations made to try and ensure that such a tragedy will not happen to another family in the future.

Our thoughts are, as ever, with the families of those so deeply affected by this crime.

– Ch Insp Sean Russell, West Midlands Police


New photo released of missing Halesowen woman

Police searching for a missing woman from Halesowen have released a new photo of her.

Ruth Lewis, 59, hasn't been seen since Saturday.

Police say she is often in the Haden Hill Park area and usually wears outdoor trekking clothing.

Penguins witness man's proposal to girlfriend at zoo

More than 60 penguins witnessed the proposal Credit: PA

Dozens of penguins at Dudley Zoo witnessed a poolside proposal when a man dropped to his knee and asked his girlfriend to marry him.

28-year-old Dan Pearson and 29-year-old Claire Tedstone from Halesowen are season ticket holders at the zoo and he decided penguin bay would make the ideal romantic spot.

Dan and Claire Credit: Dudley Zoo

We both love Dudley Zoo and the penguins are my favourite animals. When he pulled out the ring and got down on one knee I was so surprised I forgot to say yes – I was too busy hugging him and squealing with delight!

– Claire Tedstone

Police continue to question pair over woman's murder

Detectives are continuing to question a man and a woman in connection with the murder of an 80-year-old woman from Halesowen.

Cynthia Beamond was found at her home on Friday. A post-mortem examination revealed she died as a result of head injuries suffered during a violent attack.

A 32-year-old man and a 24-year-old woman are still being questioned by detectives, who have until Thursday (3 July) to charge or release the pair.

Police find murdered pensioner's missing car

Cynthia Beamond was found with severe head injuries at her home in Halesowen on Sunday Credit: West Midlands Police

Police have recovered the car of a pensioner who was found murdered at her home in Halesowen on Sunday.

A post-mortem examination revealed 80-year-old Cynthia Beamond died as a result of head injuries suffered during a violent attack.

Mrs Beamond's missing Vauxhall Astra has been found in Druids Heath Credit: West Midlands Police

Her T registration Vauxhall Astra went missing from her home, but was found in Druids Heath in Birmingham just before 3pm yesterday following a report from a member of the public.

The car has now been recovered and is currently being thoroughly examined. The police are still asking for help to establish the car’s movements since Friday lunchtime until yesterday afternoon.

A 32-year-old man and a 24-year-old woman are being questioned by detectives, who have until Thursday (3 July) to charge or release the pair.

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