Name: Melissa Mathieson
Died: October 16, 2014
Age at death: 18
Cause of death: Murder (Strangled)
Location: Bristol, England, UK
Melissa had a passion for music. She had an older brother named Alex; her family called her a “gentle, kind and lovely girl… a bubbly girl, outgoing and always had a smile on her face. She was always trying to make friends and just had a lovely personality.” At 18 years old she had spent the past few months in a group home, where she hoped to get past some difficulties she had been facing.
In this group home lived a man whose behavior Melissa found very unsettling. The man had a history of violence and he was living in the group home because he had attempted to strangle his teacher, planning to have sex with the body. This man had been following Melissa around and was not deterred by her statement that she was not interested in having sex with men. The group home staff knew of the man’s violent history and still decided to house him with vulnerable young adults like Melissa, who was so trusting she usually forgot to lock her door.
Melissa had told staff that the man made her feel uncomfortable and that he was stalking her, but staff did nothing about the problem except remind Melissa to lock her door at night, without actually checking to make sure the door was locked. In fact, the door was unlocked when Melissa’s stalker entered her room, strangled her to death, and began dragging her body back to his own room. This made noise and he was caught before he could get away, but it was too late for Melissa.
Melissa’s family misses her greatly. “We keep thinking we are going to see her bound through the doors,” they say. “But now that she is not here at all – it’s the emptiness that is overwhelming.”
Melissa’s killer has been convicted and will serve 19 years to life. Like Melissa, he had autism; but Melissa’s parents know that his autism had nothing to do with his decision to kill. They feel betrayed because the care system that Melissa trusted would put a vulnerable, trusting young woman in the same group home as someone with a known history of violence.
“We know better than most people the difficulties that autism can present, so our feelings about [the killer] are not based on ignorance of his condition.
“What he has done is awful; we cannot comprehend it. He has deprived a brother of his sister.
“He has deprived us parents of the privilege of watching our daughter to continue to blossom, thrive, grow up and have children of her own – because she would have got through her difficulties and gone on to have the future life that she wanted within the community.”
Because care home staff had forensic recommendations that Melissa’s killer was likely to act in violent ways in the future, but failed to heed it, her death was ruled preventable.
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