Robert Brown was sentenced to 26 years after being found guilty of killing his estranged wife, Joanna Simpson
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A former BA pilot who bludgeoned his wife to death could become the first prisoner to have his release blocked by the Justice Secretary.

Robert Brown was sentenced to 26 years after being found guilty of killing his estranged wife, Joanna Simpson, at their home in Windsor on Halloween in 2010. 

Despite his callous treatment of his ex-partner, hitting her repeatedly with a hammer in earshot of their children and then digging a deep grave in Windsor Great Park and abandoning her body there, he avoided a murder conviction and instead pleaded guilty to manslaughter with diminished responsibility. 

Brown might now become the first dangerous prisoner to have his release blocked by the Justice Secretary under controversial reforms that were brought in under Dominic Raab

Current Justice Secretary Alex Chalk told The Times that he might employ a ministerial veto that overrules the decision of the parole board or force Brown’s case to be brought before the parole board. 

Robert Brown was sentenced to 26 years after being found guilty of killing his estranged wife, Joanna Simpson

Robert Brown was sentenced to 26 years after being found guilty of killing his estranged wife, Joanna Simpson

Joanna Simpson, who was killed by her estranged husband, Robert Brown, on Halloween in 2010

Joanna Simpson, who was killed by her estranged husband, Robert Brown, on Halloween in 2010

During a visit to Category C HMP High Down, in Surrey, Mr Chalk said he had met the mother of Joanna Simpson, Diana Parkes, alongside one of her friends, and that meeting the family and friends of the victim had reaffirmed his decision. 

The minister said: ‘I will say to you what I said to them — that I was very affected by what I heard from them and I will do everything I properly can within the law to ensure that justice is done in their case.’ 

Mr Chalk addressed concerns about the extension of ministers’ power, saying: ‘Ministers themselves have to be accountable and that is being built into the system.

‘But when it comes to those serious offenders, protecting the public is a top priority and I am absolutely determined to follow through on that principle.’

Brown has served 13 years of his original 26-year sentence but because he was convicted of manslaughter, rather than murder, he will not automatically face a parole hearing. 

He had returned to his family’s home just a week before his divorce from bed and breakfast owner Joanna Simpson, 46, was finalised. 

They had split due to his controlling behaviour and the divorce proceedings had been acrimonious. 

Joanna Simpson's mother, Diana Parkes, has campaigned since her daughter's killing to keep Brown in prison

Joanna Simpson’s mother, Diana Parkes, has campaigned since her daughter’s killing to keep Brown in prison

Left to right: Carrie Johnson, Joanna Simpson's mother Diana Parkes, Priti Patel and former prime minister Boris Johnson in March, at the launch of the campaign to keep Brown behind bars

Left to right: Carrie Johnson, Joanna Simpson’s mother Diana Parkes, Priti Patel and former prime minister Boris Johnson in March, at the launch of the campaign to keep Brown behind bars 

Mr Alex Chalk (pictured April 21) addressed concerns about the extension of ministers' power, saying: 'Ministers themselves have to be accountable and that is being built into the system

Mr Alex Chalk (pictured April 21) addressed concerns about the extension of ministers’ power, saying: ‘Ministers themselves have to be accountable and that is being built into the system

Their two children, aged just nine and ten at the time, could hear the blows of the claw hammer on their mother’s body as their father killed her. 

Brown bundled her body into his car, before returning to the house to disconnect the phone and remove the CCTV. 

He put his children in the car and drove them to his new partner’s house. 

His son asked during the journey if he was ‘taking Mummy to hospital’. 

Ms Simpson’s body, which he buried in a box in a deep grave in Windsor Great Park, was not found until five days later. 

Her family and friends were appalled by the judicial decision not to convict Brown of murder at his trial in May 2011.

The Joanna Simpson Foundation, which was set up in her name, supports and protects children who are affected by domestic abuse, violence and homicide.  

But the parole reforms, which are part of the government’s Victims and Prisoners Bill, could be in force before Brown is due to be released in November.

As the draft legislation currently stands, ministers will be given the power to veto the release of dangerous prisoners repeatedly – even if they had been approved by the Parole Board. 

It is expected that up to 600 prison releases a year would come under the new powers, allowing Justice ministers to block the freedom of murderers, rapists and terrorists if they had not served their full sentence. 

But senior Conservatives, including former Justice Secretary David Gauke, have said that the extension of power implicit in the reforms is ‘worrying’. 

Sir John Major, former Prime Minister, said: ‘This is a very slippery slope. I do not think that any politician should have that power, and I hope the new justice secretary will reconsider or — if he does not — that parliament will deny it.’ 

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