Tuesday, May 02, 2006


And female cops know how useless they are in serious situations

Police failed to protect a pregnant woman who told them that her boyfriend had attacked her and threatened to kill her, an official investigation found yesterday. Six days later the man had slit her throat. Hayley Richards, 23, had told officers, who had a warrant for her boyfriend's arrest, where they could find him. Instead, they decided to rescue a dog from a locked car.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission said that Wiltshire Constabulary had "failed to give a victim of domestic violence the priority and protection she deserved". It refrained from blaming specific officers and said that systemic failures were responsible.

On June 5, 2005, Miss Richard, a waitress from Trowbridge, Wiltshire, told police that Hugo Quintas, 24, a Portuguese factory worker, had attacked and threatened to kill her. She said that she was petrified. Officers were instructed to arrest Quintas but were unable to find him. Two days later Miss Richards told police he was drinking in a pub in Trowbridge but the duty sergeant said that all his officers were busy. Richard Reynolds, a commission investigator, said that two officers were dealing with a distressed dog. A woman officer refused to go to the pub to arrest him on her own because of "health and safety concerns". Mr Reynolds concluded that she was "excessively cautious and inflexible".

By the time that police arrived at the pub Quintas had left. The investigator added: "As a result, precious time and a clear opportunity for an arrest were lost." Another chance to arrest him was missed on the day before he murdered Miss Richards. Police stopped his Rover car in Trowbridge because the rear light was broken. He was issued with a ticket and let go.

Six days after the initial plea for help, Quintas slashed Miss Richards's throat from ear to ear with a Stanley knife and she bled to death.

He was jailed for life last month for her murder and was ordered to serve a minimum of 18 years. Ian Bynoe, the complaints commissioner, said: "We cannot say whether these lost opportunities led to her death, but our report has made recommendations to Wiltshire to ensure that better procedures are put in place to give officers the training and information they need to protect victims of domestic violence."

Martin Richards, the Chief Constable of Wiltshire, accepted that his force's investigation into the first assault on Miss Richards was "below the standard she had a right to expect". He said that changes to procedure and training had already been made. "When Hayley rang police to tell us Quintas's whereabouts on June 7, we had a good chance of arresting him but we didn't act fast enough," Mr Richards said. "In essence, at that moment, we made the wrong decision and for that I am deeply sorry."

Miss Richards's brother, Paul, said: "We feel bitter and angry about the week before Hayley was murdered. We do feel that Wiltshire police should change their policies and everything else to make sure no other family goes through what we have gone through."

Report here

(And don't forget your ration of Wicked Thoughts for today)

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