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3 March 2011, 05:00
The Independent Police Complaints Commissioner is publishing its findings today on the murder of Mary Griffiths in Suffolk in 2009.
At approximately 6pm on 5 May 2009, Ms Griffiths made a non-emergency call to Suffolk Constabulary to report that John McFarlane was harassing her. The call was graded as requiring a non-urgent response and at around 9.45 pm Suffolk Police phoned Ms Griffiths back, and with her agreement arranged to visit her the next day.
At around 2.45 am the following morning, Mr McFarlane broke into the home of Ms Griffiths in Bury St Edmunds and shot her with a bolt gun.
He has since been sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder to serve a minimum of 30 years.
IPCC Commissioner, Rachel Cerfontyne, said:
"This was a grotesque crime, and I would again send my condolences to Mary’s family and friends for whom no official findings can compensate for their devastating loss. The investigation found that based on the evidence gathered and existing force policies and guidance, while the call from Ms Griffiths was graded correctly, the police should have dispatched an officer to visit her home at the earliest available opportunity on the evening of 5 May, rather than wait until the following day. Having studied the operational demands on police resources in the area that evening, we have determined it would have been possible for an officer to attend.
"However, sadly nothing in either call between police and Ms Griffiths made an urgent police response imperative or could reasonably have predicted what was so swiftly to follow. And it cannot be said that the attendance of a police officer that evening would have prevented Mr McFarlane committing the horrific crime he did.”
The IPCC also says that the actions taken by civilian staff in Suffolk Police in the handling of the call and in delaying sending out officers should be marked down as a performance, rather than misconduct issue.
In response, Chief Superintendent Stewart Gull told Heart: “Firstly, I would like to express my deepest sympathies to Mary’s family and friends. This was a tragic incident and our thoughts have remained with them since her death in May 2009. All officers and police staff at Suffolk Constabulary have been keen to establish whether there were any lessons to be learnt from this incident. We have co-operated fully with the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) throughout its investigation and we fully accept the recommendations made. Prior to the completion of the IPCC investigation, the force took steps to make changes to the policies, procedures and training provision around the dealing of harassment calls.
I would like to reassure people in Suffolk that all the recommendations have been taken on board and are being acted upon. We receive a number of calls reporting harassment on a daily basis – each one is carefully and individually assessed to ensure an appropriate police response.”