Theodore Johnson is no stranger to killing women and no stranger to jail.
His first victim was Yvonne Johnson, pushed from the ninth-floor balcony of her home in 1981. Johnson was found guilty of manslaughter by reason of “provocation” and jailed for three years.
Next was Yvonne Bennett who was strangled with a belt while her baby slept. This time Johnson admitted manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility and was given a hospital order with restrictions.
Then came Angela Best, battered over the head with a claw hammer and throttled with the belt of her dressing gown in her own living room. Johnson’s third killing took place in Camden in 2016, 25 years after he killed for the first time.
All three women were Johnson’s long term partners and one was his wife. None of them were protected from a man who seemed driven to kill – and was able to slip through the net again and again even after two convictions.
Angela’s safety depended on a man who had killed twice telling supervisors that he was in a relationship.
He failed to do this for 20 years. – and her family is understandably furious.
“When I found out (Angela) had been murdered it was like time stood still,” her sister Lorraine Jones said at an inquest last week. “That trauma will remain with me for the rest of my life. I am extremely angry because my sister was not protected.
“The only protection in place was to ask a double killer of women to say whether he was in any relationships. Angela had a right to life and that right to life was taken away.
“To find out basic steps were not taken and nothing was done to protect women, I feel Angela had no chance and no choice. I spoke to my sister the night before she was killed and we were laughing and joking. TJ [Theodore Johnson] pulled the wool over everyone’s eyes.”
Jailed for just three years
Johnson was born in Jamaica and moved to Britain in 1980 with his wife Yvonne where he found work at a car repair shop.
Their new life in Wolverhampton was over just a few months later. In 1981 Johnson hit Yvonne over the head with a vase and then pushed her from their ninth floor balcony.
At trial in Staffordshire he claimed they had been arguing about going to church. The judge described him as a ‘battered husband’ and said that he killed his wife because he was provoked.
“You have led a good and decent life and you are not a violent man,” Judge Talbot told him. “What happened happened because of the deep provocation you have been put to.”
Johnson was jailed for three years.
By 1993 he was living in Finsbury Park with common law wife Yvonne Bennett and their baby girl. The pair split after Yvonne had an affair and Johnson strangled her with a belt after she rejected a gift of chocolates.
The killer phoned police to confess and then tried to hang himself. By the time of his appearance at the Old Bailey he had been diagnosed with depression and a personality disorder and was handed a hospital order with restrictions.
By September 1994, Johnson was being allowed to leave his psychiatric unit on escorted community parole. In mid 1995, he was given unescorted leave to spend two days a week at a City and Guilds course on furniture restoration.
And then in 1996 he met Angela Best.
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By the time of a mental health tribunal which gave Johnson his freedom, he had been seeing his new girlfriend for a year.
One of the conditions of his release was that he told supervising doctors and social workers of any new relationships. He did not mention Angela and repeatedly failed to say he was seeing someone.
Johnson was last seen by a social worker and psychiatrist on December 8, 2016 – days before the murder – and was not found to be depressed and continued to deny being in a relationship.
Angela dated Johnson for 20 years before she discovered a letter revealing he had killed a previous partner. He was abusive, controlling and had punched her ‘more than once’ – but did she suspect the level of danger she was in?
Campaigner Julian Hendy, who set up the charity Hundred Families. after his father was stabbed to death by a man with mental health problems in Bristol, describes the authorities’ approach to Johnson as madness.
“I find it unbelievable. They were completely dependent on him self reporting when they knew he wasn’t always accurate.” he said.
“They relied on that as the sole means of looking after him. It is completely unacceptable for a man who has a history of homicide.
“It just seems that nobody had any professional curiosity. Putting a condition of self reporting on him it is madness. How do we know the people [mental health tribunals] making these decisions are not doing this again to other people.
“This is a man who has killed twice before, that seemed to be forgotten by the people who looked after him.
“He had a history of inaccurate reporting and they knew it.”
The killer next door
Today Johnson’s former Camden neighbours remain traumatised by his actions and the aftermath of the case.
“The whole incident triggered a whole trauma breakdown in me” explained Johnson’s immediate neighbour to MyLondon. She lost a friend in a similar attack a few weeks later and still feels unable to speak about the death of Angela.
A second neighbour recalled the night of the attack explaining a large number of police cars without their lights on turned up and discovered Ms Best dead in the lounge.
“I don’t think anybody knows about it,” she explained. “I don’t think people want to know.”
The neighbour, who had lived in the street for 32 years, recalled how a second murder had also taken place on the adjacent road, Cathcart Road, but believed very few residents were aware of Johnson.
At the time of her death, Angela’s family said she was the happiest she had ever been. She had split from Johnson and was in a new – and loving – relationship.
Johnson, meanwhile, continued to profess his “undying love daily”.
Angela, 51, was still in contact with him and her family believe she did this because she was scared of him – and wanted to keep the peace.
On the morning of December 15, 2016, the mother-of-four went to her ex-partner’s house to help with an appointment with the Jamaican embassy.
It was then that he attacked her.
“That attack was brutal and merciless,” prosecutor Mark Heywood QC told the Old Bailey. “He struck her repeatedly around the head even as she tried to protect her head with her hands. He then tied a dressing gown cord around her head and knotted it.
“He did it, the prosecution say, for a simple reason – because, after all that time that had gone before, she was no longer prepared to stay with him.”
Johnson pleaded guilty to Angela’s murder and was jailed for a minimum of 30 years following a case review.
He is now confined to a wheelchair after severing both arms when he jumped in front of an express train after the murder.
In June 2021, a coroner ruled Angela’s death to be an unlawful killing and launched a prevention of future deaths report after it was found no person or organisation knew or had the power to investigate this.
Her family – including her 88-year-old mother and four children – broke down in tears. They had listened to days of awful evidence at St Pancras Coroner’s Court, including how a similar attack could happen to someone else tomorrow.
Her sister Lorraine said: “People talk about getting over grief but you don’t get over it. I feel that [Johnson] had more rights than Angela or her family who have lost her.”
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