The tragic story of former British Airways pilot Robert Brown and his wife Joanna Simpson is featured in Season 2, Episode 1 of A&E When Missing Turns to Murder.
Simpson went missing on Oct. 31, 2010. Less than a week later, Brown confessed to Investigating Officer Melanie Savage, who was interviewed in the docuseries, that he had killed her that day.
How Did Robert Brown Kill Joanna Simpson?
According to Officer Savage, Brown said he hid a hammer in one of his children’s school bags and later bludgeoned his wife with it on Oct. 31. The two were in the middle of divorce proceedings and had a hearing scheduled a week later.
Simpson’s autopsy showed that her cause of death was a result of being bludgeoned at least 14 times.
Brown then said he put Simpson’s body in the back of his car and buried Simpson in an unmarked grave in the forest area of Windsor Great Park on the Crown Estate in Windsor, Berkshire, England. He had already dug the grave and prepared it for her burial inside a large garden box.
After confessing to killing his wife, Brown lead the police to her grave site on Nov. 5, 2010.
His murder trial began on May 11, 2011.
But to Joanna’s family’s surprise, Brown pleaded not guilty to murder.
He was ultimately convicted of manslaughter due to a stress-induced psychological condition called adjustment disorder.
When Will Robert Brown Be Released From Prison?
Brown was sentenced to 26 years in prison. But 90% of offenders in the British criminal justice system only serve half of their sentence, according to the BBC — and although sentences for violent crimes tend to be longer, even criminals sentenced to life in prison only serve 17 years on average.
According to When Missing Turns to Murder, Robert Brown will only serve 13 years of his sentence.
He is scheduled for release in November 2023 — and will have no parole or risk assessment, according to The Guardian.
Simpson’s family was shocked that Brown was convicted of manslaughter rather than murder.
“A dangerous man is being released and there’s nothing anybody can do to stop it from happening,” said Hetti Barkworth-Nanton, a close friend of Simpson’s.
According to The Guardian, killers are given shorter sentences if the crime takes place at home, because lifting a knife from a kitchen drawer has less of a penalty than carrying a weapon to another location outside of the home.
Brown and Simpson’s two children, Alex and Katie, went to live with their maternal grandmother, Diana Parkes.
“That jury not getting the right verdict makes me so angry,” Parkes says in the docuseries.
“When Robert Brown is released in November 2023, the narrative that I cling onto is, he’s just like a piece of dust and completely inconsequential to my life,” Barkworth-Nanton adds. “The reality is, we’re terrified, and I don’t trust him at all in terms of what he will do.”