Bristol care home fined after teenage resident murdered by 'sexual predator'

Melissa Mathieson was strangled at Alexandra House by a man she complained was stalking her. Credit: Avon and Somerset Police

A care home has been fined £125,000 pounds for breaching health and safety rules following the murder of a teenage girl nearly a decade ago.

18-year-old Melissa Mathieson was strangled by Jason Conroy, then 19, in her room at Alexandra House in Knowle, Bristol, a residential care facility for adults with autism and Asperger’s. 

Conroy, a fellow care home resident, was fascinated by necrophilia. Now aged 27, he was jailed for life and ordered to serve a minimum of 19 years for the sexually motivated killing.

Bristol Crown Court heard Alexandra Homes (Bristol) Ltd failed to install measures to protect her, at a hearing on Friday 1 December.

David Sapiecha, prosecuting, told the court that Conroy had shown a “pattern of predatory sexual violence” in the years leading up to the murder and had killed Miss Mathieson just two months after moving into Alexandra House.

Conroy, who once tried to strangle a teacher so he could abuse her, planned to drag the teenager’s body back to his room and have sex with her.

Previously he had also attempted to kill his mother by putting a duvet over her head for the same reason.

Hours before she died Miss Mathieson, who had ADHD and autism, had complained to staff that Conroy was stalking her.

Jason Conroy murdered Melissa at Alexandra House Credit: Avon and Somerset Police

Mr Sapiecha said the company had failed in its duty to keep residents safe after being given information about the danger Conroy posed, including a report from psychiatrist Dr Hilary Grant.

“It cannot be said there was no warning at all,” he said.

“Information was already known when the report by Dr Grant was eventually provided. The report was received at the beginning of August – some two months before the incident.

“While it is accepted that the creation of a support plan and risk assessment was created before the Grant report, it should have raised immediate concerns and raised immediate action.

“Once they had that report, Alexandra Homes should have changed the control measures, which were woefully inadequate to protect others, to one that put in place robust support measures and shared with staff.”

The owners pleaded guilty to a charge of "failing to ensure that persons not in its employment were not exposed to risks to their health and safety".

They were fined £125,000.

In a statement in court, Melissa’s father James Mathieson said: "My daughter was murdered under the watch of Alexandra House and I cannot forgive them for that.

He added: "I will not get to see her grow into a lovely young woman and see all she could have had for her future."

He said the home assured him and Melissa’s mother that "they would keep her safe and help her live a full and fulfilled life".

He talked of her being full of life, someone who loved cuddles and that so many were left heartbroken when, in his words, "she was allowed to be murdered".

He broke down as he recalled the night he was told his daughter had been assaulted and was in hospital. She died on 16th October when her life support was switched off. 

James added that his daughter’s murderer, Jason Conroy, was also failed by Alexandra House due to inadequate safeguarding.

Melissa Mathieson and her father James Credit: Family handout

Speaking afterwards, Mr Mathieson, whose wife died from cancer shortly after his daughter, said: “The fine to me is immaterial. The fact that they have pleaded guilty to failings is the thing that keeps me going.

“It’s hard, it really is. Nine years have passed and I’m still no closer to filling in the full picture of what happened to my daughter.

“Yes, she was murdered but she was murdered in the care home and there should have been things in place for both of them.

“I do not want to see another family put through what I have been put through.

“I really just miss everything about her. She was a bubbly girl. I miss seeing her every day.”

HSE inspector Caroline Coleman said: “Alexandra Homes was given clear warning signs about Jason Conroy’s behaviour but simply didn’t act upon them.

“As a result, Melissa Mathieson, a vulnerable young woman, lost her life in a setting that was meant to protect and help her.”