Published: 27 April, 2012
by DAVID ST GEORGE
A CONVICTED and sentenced killer could have walked free – because of a legal oversight.
Just hours after he was given eight years for manslaughter, lawyers realised that Thomas Quinn had never been charged with that offence, even though he had confessed the unlawful killing of his disabled mother when he was arrested in June last year at their home in Finsbury.
On Thursday, following a nine-day Old Bailey trial, Quinn, a 51-year-old former London Transport worker who was an £80-a-week paid carer for widowed Mary Philomena Quinn, 81, was cleared by a jury of murdering his devoutly religious mother, a retired BT worker, when jurors accepted submissions from defence QC Judith Khan that he was suffering from mental illness and his responsibility for the death was severely diminished.
Miss Khan maintained that Quinn, a chronic alcoholic “loved” his mother and did everything he could for her to ease her pain at their sixth-floor flat in Emberton Court, Tompion Street.
But following a stroke and when she became virtually housebound for much of the time he found the stress and strain too great.
“He was suffering from severe depression and drinking himself to death," said Miss Khan.
"On March 22 last year, he visited his GP for the first time in three years and spoke of his problems.
"It was not long afterwards that he killed her.”
Bachelor Quinn had been on the brink of “ending everything” by diving from his balcony, added counsel.
Quinn insisted that when he wrapped a dressing gown cord about her neck and strangled her on her bed he was “acting out of mercy” because she had begged him to end her days.
He used industrial tape to seal her bedroom and left her body rotting for weeks in the two-bedroom flat as he carried on life as normal.
Crown Prosecutor Sarah Whitehouse said that because of her deeply held Catholic beliefs Mrs Quinn would never have contemplated suicide.
It was the concern of church members that eventually led police to raid the address and make the grim discovery.
Miss Whitehouse argued that Quinn throttled his mother after he had been drinking, smoking cannabis and completely lost his temper.
The jury took more that 10 hours before acquitting Quinn of murder. He was given an eight-year sentence for manslaughter by Recorder of London Judge Peter Beaumont.
After he was taken to jail, experts realised that Quinn was being held illegally.
He had never been asked to enter a guilty plea to manslaughter and should have been released even though he had always admitted the killing. The court was reconvened, Quinn was brought back from prison, and the “technicality” was overcome by his defence barrister agreeing “no point is taken”.
Judge Beaumont said: “It still leaves an unsatisfactory position. I don’t want Mr Quinn to feel any sense of injustice.”
The technical slip was not his fault but the matter should not be left to fester, said the judge.
He found a solution by turning himself into a district judge and committing Quinn for trial at the Old Bailey. When the court clerk put the manslaughter charge to him Quinn replied: “Guilty.”
“I sentence you to eight years imprisonment for the reasons I stated yesterday,” Judge Beaumont told him and Quinn nodded his approval.