South East Wales

Argoed: Cerys Yemm's family seeks offender monitoring reform

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionFamilies of Cerys Yemm and Matthew Williams issued statements after the verdicts

The family of a woman killed at a hostel in Caerphilly county has called for a new approach to monitor offenders after they are released from prison.

Cerys Yemm, 22 was attacked by Matthew Williams at the Sirhowy Arms Hotel in Argoed on 6 November 2014.

Police officers stunned Williams, 34, with a Taser but he later died.

An inquest jury ruled Miss Yemm was unlawfully killed, while Williams died as a result of taking drugs and struggling against police restraint.

Both families want lessons to be learned, while a watchdog inquiry said police used reasonable force.

In a statement, Miss Yemm's family said her death had "devastated our family".

"We feel that there should be reform of the systems of monitoring and information sharing between agencies when offenders are released from prison," they said.

In their statement released after the hearing, Williams' family described him as a "troubled" man who had struggled to get the help he needed for mental health and drugs issues in prison or the community".

It continued: "We hope that this case will highlight the need for better mental healthcare care and lead to the effective sharing of information between state agencies and that another family will not have to go through what the families touched by this inquest have had to endure."

During the three-week inquest inquest, the jury heard the pair had met two weeks before the killing, on a night out in Blackwood.

On the night of the attack, they went back to the hostel together but the alarm was raised when other residents heard screaming coming from Williams' room.

Hostel owner Mandy Miles, who opened Williams' door, told the inquest there was "blood everywhere" and the scene was "like a horror film".

Her husband, Raymond Miles said it was "clear that Cerys was dead" and Williams was still attacking her face.

Williams was Tasered four times by police before he was arrested.

Paramedics said he did not need immediate help but soon after his pulse and breathing deteriorated. He died in the back of the ambulance.

Two consultant cardiologists said Williams suffered a cardiac arrest induced by amphetamines he used along with stress caused by the attack on Miss Yemm, the struggle with police and undiagnosed relapsed schizophrenia.

Miss Yemm's post mortem examination revealed she had at least 89 separate injures across her body and her cause of death was given as "sharp force trauma to the face and neck".

The inquest heard Williams, who was released from prison two weeks before the attack, had taken mephedrone and amphetamine in the days before the killing.

Image copyright Family photo
Image caption Cerys Marie Yemm was the girlfriend of Williams' former prison friend

Williams' mother Sally Ann claimed he had been released with no help for his mental health problems and said he told her he was feeling paranoid and the "voices were back".

She said PC Alison Perry promised she would arrange a "fast track" meeting to get him anti-psychotic medication.

But PC Perry told the inquest he rejected all offers of help and any psychiatrist appointments would have needed to be made by his doctor.

His GP said he showed no signs of schizophrenia the week before the attack, but his school friend Rhodri Moore told the hearing Williams "didn't seem very well" and was having hallucinations.

The inquest also heard from police that Williams had sent letters threatening to kill others while in prison.

It heard Williams had wanted to be housed near his father in Newport, but the council did not consider him their responsibility and sent him to Caerphilly council, which housed him at the Sirhowy Arms.

If he had been living in Newport, he would have been away from his former drug taking associates in the area where he grew up and "was most likely to offend", the inquest heard.

Gwent Coroner David Bowen told jurors the only finding they could make in respect of Miss Yemm's death was of unlawful killing.

'Traumatic circumstances'

He then directed them to return a narrative finding in respect of Williams and said he did not need them to make any findings of fact about the wider circumstances.

Gwent Police Assistant Chief Constable Emma Ackland extended the force's sympathies to both families and paid tribute to the officers involved for "the professional way they have dealt with this distressing incident".

An Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) investigation into the incident found Gwent Police officers acted with reasonable and necessary force in "traumatic circumstances".

A report detailing its findings concluded the use of force, including a Taser, was proportionate given the circumstances and the high risk posed.

The IPCC made two recommendations to the force, including reviewing its procedure to ensure offenders on the Integrated Offender Management Scheme are visited shortly before release.

It also reminded officers wearing body cameras to switch the device on to ensure best evidence is captured, after the inquest revealed an officer wearing one forgot to switch it on.

Caerphilly council said legislation in Wales had changed since the incident and councils in Wales no longer had a duty to provide emergency accommodation for the vast majority of prison leavers, as it did at the time of the incident.

A spokesman added a new prison leaver pathway had been introduced for those it does help, which provides a coordinated resettlement package to be implemented.

A spokesman for Abertawe Bro Morgannwg health board said Williams had refused all help offered to address his drug problem and he was released without medication because doctors decided his psychosis was down to drug use and not schizophrenia.

More on this story