May 9, 2006
A psychopath who mutilated and
murdered a three-year-old girl more than 10 years ago must serve
at least 16 years in jail, a High Court judge ruled.
Shaun Armstrong, then 33, was jailed for life in July 1995 after
pleading guilty to murdering Rosie Palmer.
abducted her in June 1994 after she went to buy an ice lolly from
a van outside her home in Hartlepool.
review of the minimum term set at his sentencing, Mr Justice Crane
concluded it should remain at 16 years.
found the youngster's body hidden in a wardrobe at Armstrong's
flat three days after she disappeared. He was described as having
a "severely disordered personality".
Mr Justice Crane said: "Having
regard to all the relevant factors I conclude that the minimum
term should be 16 years, as was the tariff set, subject to a
deduction of 12 months and 21 days for the period on remand."
He said Rosie had been subjected to "gross violation" and it was
the trial judge's view she "had almost certainly died because
Armstrong suffocated her when she cried out at the assault".
The judge said a minimum term would likely to have been 28 years
and six months on today's principles and even if greater weight
was given to his mental state, a term of not less than 25 years
would be inevitable.
But he said: "The minimum
term was not open to criticism on the principles that applied at
Armstrong, who was 32 at the time of
the murder, had been under a hospital's care since March 1992 and
re-housed on the council estate where Rosie lived.
He would be able to apply for parole in June 2010, but would only
be released if a parole board was satisfied he no longer posed any
risk to the public.
Chronological history of Shaun Anthony
Shaun Anthony Armstrong was born
at the Littlethorpe Maternity Hospital in Easington, County
Durham, to Rachael Teal, who was then unmarried and aged eighteen
years. His father was Joseph James Steel, his mother's own father.
He was apparently a blue baby, being delivered by forceps and as a
result of obstetrical problems his mother was unable to have any
For the first three years of
his life Shaun Armstrong was brought up by his maternal
grandparents as his mother was either working or in and out of
hospital with psychiatric problems from which she had apparently
suffered from about the age of fourteen. When he was three years
old his mother married George Armstrong who was then fifteen years
older than herself and Shaun Armstrong was brought up believing
that he was the son of George Armstrong.
Armstrong alleged that his stepfather showed little affection for
him but when his mother and stepfather subsequently separated
Shaun Armstrong stated that he really looked up to his stepfather
and indeed visited him on a regular basis until October 1989 when
all contact ceased following Shaun Armstrong's second marriage.
As an only child Armstrong appears
to have been somewhat isolated and lonely and developed a close
relationship with a maternal cousin, Andrew Christopher Steel who
was almost exactly the same age. Andrew was tragically killed in a
road accident in 1969 when both children were aged seven years.
This event had a profound effect on Armstrong and led to an
immediate deterioration in his behaviour and in his own words "I
became a bastard. I became hateful and got mad at everyone". He
was apparently referred to a Child Psychologist and possibly a
Psychiatrist but no further details of the referrals are
Approximately one month after Andrew
Steel's death, when Armstrong was aged seven years and two months
he was subjected to inappropriate sexual behaviour by his mother.
This continued until he was thirteen years when it progressed to
full sexual intercourse which took place on an intermittent basis
until he was sixteen.
Approximately five months after Andrew Steel's death his mother
and stepfather separated when his mother moved back to her parents
home taking Armstrong with her. Although they were reconciled
about a year later they finally separated in 1974 when Armstrong
was twelve years old. His mother in fact finally left to live with
Thomas William Matthews whom she subsequently married. However Mr
Matthews was described as being excessively jealous and the
marriage only lasted four years.
Attended Easington Secondary Modern School. Described as being
overweight and a loner, he made few friends as his mother insisted
that he went straight home from school and he was not allowed to
play with friends.
Aged fourteen he attended the Nautical School at Campden Square,
Seaham, where he stated that he did well academically passing five
'O' Levels and two CSE's in Seamanship and Navigation. During
holidays he found occasional work in sawmills and as a delivery
assistant for a TV retail company.
Letter written by Dr MR Whalley, consultant Child Psychiatrist to
Armstrong's GP refers to contact with Durham Joint Child Guidance
Services having been referred on account of overt sexual advances
made towards his mother. Letter stated that Armstrong came from a
broken home and his mother was concerned as to whether the
circumstances of his birth meant he had a permanent mental
disability. Dr Whalley stated that he reassured the mother but did
consider that Armstrong was a very disturbed boy. There was a
suggestion that Armstrong required psychotherapy and Dr Whalley
considered discussing this with an Educational Psychologist but
there is no further documentation in the GP's Notes.
Enlisted for Naval training at
Plymouth aged sixteen.
Appeared before Easington Juvenile Court when convicted of
offences of dishonesty for which he was given a two year
Discharged from the Navy on the grounds that he was
psychologically unfit. This was allegedly following stress due to
the death of his girlfriend from cervical cancer at the age of
seventeen years. This association was alleged to have lasted over
Easington Juvenile Court. Convicted of offences of Burglary and
Theft and given two year Supervision Order.
After his discharge from the Navy,
Armstrong returned to the North East where he obtained employment
in the sawmills at Carrville and then in the Horden Colliery where
he worked for five years until he was made redundant in April
1985. He then worked for a number of employers including a two
year spell in London but did not work after 1992.
Armstrong left home at eighteen
to marry CBM who was born on the 30th December 1954 and who was
therefore nearly eight years older than himself. CBM already had
two children, a daughter (A) who was seven and a son who was four.
After the marriage the family lived at Horden.
Easington Magistrates Court.
Convicted of two offences of Theft and given a 120 Hour Community
Armstrong's marriage to CBM broke down. According to his wife this
was a result of (a) violence towards her, (b) her discovery of
Armstrong having sexual intercourse with his natural mother and
(c) sexual abuse by Armstrong of her daughter (A) which she did
not disclose at that time. According to Armstrong the breakdown
was due to his jealousy when he saw her talking to another man and
read more into the situation than actually existed.
First contact with Health
Authorities. Took overdose of mother's Parnate and admitted to St.
Hilda's Hospital, Hartlepool for two days. During admission he saw
a Psychiatrist but on his discharge no follow up arrangements made
except a referral to his GP.
Easington Magistrates Court. Obtaining by deception. Fined £100.
Easington Magistrates Court.
Three offences of dishonesty. Sentenced to three months
imprisonment suspended for two years.
Divorce proceedings initiated by
CBM. On receipt of Decree Nisi Armstrong inflicted cuts to both of
his arms in an apparent attempt to kill himself and was admitted
to St Hilda's Hospital, Hartlepool.
Easington Magistrates Court. Four offences of dishonesty sentenced
to three months imprisonment.
Armstrong met EJA who was a friend of his mothers, seventeen years
older than Armstrong and with alcohol problems. She was also a
divorcee with four children and lived at Peterlee, Co. Durham.
Easington Magistrates Court.
One offence of Assault Occasioning Actual Bodily Harm (to his
mother) and five offence of dishonesty. Community Service Order
for 160 hours. Armstrong subsequently stated that the assault on
his mother followed her disclosure to him of his true paternity,
but some doubt exists about this statement in view of his
subsequent statement that his mother only disclosed this
information after she had been diagnosed as suffering from
carcinoma in 1989.
Referred by his GP to St Hilda's Hospital in Hartlepool because of
depression. After treatment with antidepressants he was discharged
with no Out-Patient follow up.
Easington Magistrates Court. Two offences of dishonesty. Sentenced
to three months imprisonment.
Teesside Crown Court. Three offences of dishonesty. Sentenced to
two years imprisonment.
Teesside Crown Court. One Criminal Damage and four offences of
Dishonesty. Sentenced to 21 months imprisonment.
Released on Parole (to
Armstrong married EJA.
Armstrong's mother diagnosed as suffering from malignant melanoma.
Until then Armstrong had believed that George Armstrong was his
father but his mother now disclosed for the first time that
Armstrong was the product of an incestuous relationship with her
own father which had occurred from when she was twelve to
seventeen years old when she became pregnant with Armstrong.
Armstrong's mother died and
Armstrong declined to attend her funeral.
Armstrong seen at Peterlee Health
Centre at request of his GP by Dr F Gowans a Clinical Psychologist
from Hartlepool. Armstrong stated that his natural father was his
mother's father and that he (Armstrong) had been abused by his
mother from the age of eight throughout his school years. He also
stated that he had had a nervous breakdown in 1982, after he had
left his first wife, when he had just laid in bed shaking and
Armstrong failed to attend follow up appointment with Dr Gowans,
who simply notified the GP of this fact by letter, but gave no
details of any assessment or of the information supplied by
Peterlee Magistrates Court. Fined £50 for Public Order Act offence
and £10 for Theft.
Attending Alcoholics Anonymous.
Peterlee Magistrates Court. Fined £100 for Theft.
Armstrong assaulted by stepson
KA (adult son of EAJ).
First admission to Ward 15 of Hartlepool General Hospital
following a telephone request from his GP Dr Pearson. At the time
Armstrong was low and anxious stating that in the past he had self
lacerated his arms, had overdosed on his mother's prescribed
Parnate, and was afraid that he might harm himself again.
On this admission Armstrong made the following statements to his
Consultant or to the Nursing Staff: -
(A) He had
received a Dishonourable Discharge from the Navy for shooting a
Chief Petty officer.
(B) He had found his wife
in bed committing adultery and had thrown the man through a plate
glass window. As a result he had been sentenced to two years
imprisonment and had in fact served 14 months.
(C) He was constantly fighting with his stepson who was one of the
children of his then current wife EJA, who was herself 17 years
older than him.
(D) He was annoyed because his
step daughter (B) was going out drinking almost daily leaving him
to care for her two children aged three and two years
(E) He was separated from his
(F) He agreed he had both a drink and
drugs problem particularly with regard to the drug DP118.
(G) His mother had sexually abused him as a child.
(H) His mother, his current wife EJA and his stepdaughter (B) had
all been patients on the Unit.
His Consultant advised Armstrong that he could stay in hospital
for a short while until his marital problems were resolved but
that there was no medication which was appropriate for his
treatment. He was advised that on discharge he should attend
either the North East Council for Addictions or the Alcohol and
Drugs Advisory Centre to discuss his drink and drugs dependency
but failed to do so.
Armstrong stated that he felt unable to return to live with his
current wife EJA and was exploring the possibility of taking a
bedsit in Hartlepool. EJA subsequently stated the marriage had
broken up because of violence towards her by Armstrong, her
discovery of Armstrong wearing women's clothing and the allegation
that Armstrong had abused one of her daughters in 1986.
Social Worker contacted with
regard to Armstrong's housing problem. An interview was arranged
for Armstrong to go and look at Benedict House at Park Road,
Hartlepool but following a short leave from Hospital, Armstrong
returned saying that he had seen his first wife CBM and she had
agreed to Armstrong going to live with her in Plymouth. The matter
had allegedly been discussed with EJA who was in agreement.
Armstrong discharged from
Hospital. Diagnosis of personality disorder. No follow up
appointments were made as Armstrong's new address in Plymouth was
Armstrong's stepdaughter (B), then aged 22 years, alleged that she
and her sister had been sexually abused as children by Armstrong
who had subsequently abused her daughter (C) aged two years. As a
result of those allegations EJA threw him out of her home.
29 & 30.11.1992
Joint interviews took
place between the Police, Social Workers and the child (C) but as
nothing conclusive emerged the Social Services Department made the
decision that, as Armstrong was no longer residing at his wife's
home and no contact was to be allowed between Armstrong and the
child (C), there were no further protection issues in respect of
Armstrong's second admission to Ward 15, Hartlepool General
Hospital. Armstrong stated that as a result of pressures in his
social life for a period of two months he had slashed both of his
forearms and taken an overdose of prescribed medication including
Ferricolin Folic, Co-codamol, Tagamet and Temazepam.
Armstrong seen by his
Consultant who diagnosed "Personality problem with addiction
Armstrong asked to see a Social Worker as he was separated from
his wife and homeless.
Consultant mentioned discharge from Hospital whereupon Armstrong
became very threatening and spoke of harming himself in order to
stay in Hospital. He threatened to walk under a bus and also
talked of nightmares about when he was in the Navy and had killed
Discharge from Hospital. Non-committal about where he was going
and follow up therefore impossible because of lack of address.
Consultant carried out
Domiciliary Visit at Armstrong's Wingate home at his GP's request
in relation to Armstrong's drinking problems. Subsequently wrote
to Armstrong's GP describing him as suffering from Psychopathic
Armstrong failed to attend Out Patient Clinic.
Police interviewed Armstrong
about allegations made on 29.11.1992 by his stepdaughter (B).
Totally denied by Armstrong and in the absence of any further
proof Police decided to take no further action.
Admitted to Hartlepool General
Hospital Ward 7 (General). Stated that he was of no fixed abode
and had taken an overdose following the curtailment of a
He requested assistance with his
housing problem and arrangements were made for him to go to Union
House at Southgate. He was accompanied to Union House by a
temporary Social Worker attached to the Community Mental Health
Team at Hartlepool General Hospital but only stayed one night and
left with no forwarding address.
Admitted to Medical Ward 5 at Hartlepool General Hospital from his
Wingate address after an overdose following an argument with his
girlfriend CA. Stated that he would take another overdose if
things did not work out between himself and CA.
Armstrong discharged from
Hospital with no forwarding address.
Admitted to Medical Ward 5 in a deeply unconscious state following
a serious overdose of at least 28 Noctec and 28 Temazepam which he
had taken as a result of an argument with CA. During this
admission he stated that his girlfriend had thrown him out without
any clothes, he was homeless and needed help with accommodation.
He also stated that he intended to kill his girlfriend and then
Subsequently transferred to Ward 15
where he stated that his girlfriend was drinking heavily and she
had attempted to set fire to the house on two occasions. He had
submitted an application to the Homeless Department at the Civic
Centre and expected to be rehoused within two weeks. He had been
offered a place at Benedict House but had turned that down as
being too rough. His Consultant was asked to write a supporting
letter to the Housing Department when he would be allocated a
house or flat almost straight away.
established a relationship with AS who was also a patient on Ward
15 and this caused some concern to the staff. Armstrong was
transferred to Ward 16 but the relationship continued.
Consultant wrote to Homeless
Section at Hartlepool Civic Centre supporting Armstrong's
application for Council accommodation.
Armstrong discharged. Stated that
he would contact the Unit with a forwarding address.
Peterlee Magistrates Court.
Fined £60 for Theft.
Attended Out-Patients Clinic. Had changed address twice and was
then living at 32 Lancaster Road, Hartlepool.
Armstrong moved to 51
Frederick Street, Hartlepool, an upstairs Council flat.
Attending Out-Patients Clinic.
Still associating with CA who was allegedly pregnant. Also still
Admitted to drinking two litres of
cider per day and Consultant made note that admission to Hospital
likely in the near future. Advised to contact Keith Appleby at the
Alcohol and Drugs Advisory Centre but failed to do so.
Attended Out-Patients Clinic.
Marked improvement noted. Stated that he had a job and a BMW car,
was not taking drugs or drinking and was coping well in his flat,
all of which were untrue.
Failed to keep Out-Patients appointment. New appointment notified
Rosie Palmer murdered.
Armstrong pleaded Guilty at Leeds Crown Court to Murder and
sentenced to Life imprisonment by Mr Justice Ognall.
Rosie Palmer, 3.