999 Call From Ding Family "Badly Mishandled"

28 February 2012, 15:15 | Updated: 29 February 2012, 10:37

A report has revealed that police missed a desperate, screaming 999 call from a teenage girl while she and her family where being murdered in their home.

University lecturer Jifeng Ding, 46, his wife Helen Chui, 47,and their two children, Xing, aged 18, and Alice, aged 12, were stabbed to death at their home in Pioneer Close in Northampton on the day of the Royal Wedding.

Their bodies were discovered two days later and a worldwide hunt was launched for the prime suspect Anxiang Du, 52, - a former business partner of Helen.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission investigated the way Northamptonshire police handled a call from the mobile phone of Xing as her parents were being attacked downstairs in their home.

It found:

  • The location from which the 999 call was made was incorrectly identified and disseminated by a police call handler. It led the police to focus on a wrong address. Insufficient checks being carried out to determine the correct address of the caller.
  • The call should have been graded as requiring an 'immediate' rather than a 'priority' police response.
  • The call was prematurely closed by a force control room supervisor without sufficient consideration or effort given to establish the welfare of the caller.

The report said: "The standard by which police handled the call was unacceptable. There was no clear force policy in place for handling abandoned 999 calls and the relevant call handler had received insufficient training."

IPCC Commissioner Amerdeep Somal said: "Our findings have to be viewed against a high volume of emergency calls the police deal with, but our investigation has found this particular 999 call was badly mishandled.  

"An incorrect location for where the call originated from led to potentially crucial minutes of police time being wasted. And the recording of a specific, wrong address on the incident log misled officers into believing that all was apparently well when the reality was the extreme opposite."

She added: "Force procedure dictates that screaming on an abandoned 999 call should elicit an immediate police response. Had police used more detailed checks and a mapping system available to them, the need for a subscriber check would have been established; the correct address in Pioneer Close would have been identified and in all likelihood attended by officers within minutes. I know Northamptonshire Police has reacted constructively to our findings by introducing new procedures in handling abandoned 999 calls in accordance with national guidance and retraining relevant staff. I would urge anyone with any information about the whereabouts of Mr Du to contact Northamptonshire Police in the interests of justice."

The IPCC investigation found that the force control room supervisor has a case to answer for misconduct as the decision to close the incident was taken without sufficient information or proper risk assessment.  It was decided that the actions of the relevant call handler were in part a consequence of organisational failings around a lack of policy and training and the member of staff would therefore be dealt with by the force for performance issues.

The civilian call handler has recently taken voluntary redundancy from Northamptonshire Police. The family of the Dings have been informed by the IPCC of its findings.

In a statement Northamptonshire police said: "The Force recognises it was unlikely that the lives of the Ding family could have been saved, however there was a possibility that the main suspect, An Xiang Du, could have been at the address had the call been handled correctly and officers dispatched.

"Northamptonshire Police acknowledges that the response to the abandoned 999 call was unacceptable. The IPCC report recognises that the significant range of measures which Northamptonshire Police have already implemented means that no further changes are required. These measures include a clear policy and new guidance for the handling of abandoned 999 calls. All control room staff have been retrained in the handling of abandoned 999 calls.

"Northamptonshire Police has written to the immediate next of kin of the Ding family to apologise for the way the call was handled. This includes an invitation to receive this apology in person. We remain determined to bring the person responsible for this terrible crime to justice and the investigation into the whereabouts of the main suspect, An Xiang Du, continues to receive our full attention."