Bognor Mum Failed By Police

27 February 2014, 07:56

Police and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) failed to take steps which would have stopped a young mother being stabbed to death by her estranged husband in front of their young children, an inquest has found.

The jury returned a verdict of unlawful killing into the death of Cassandra Hasanovic and criticised Sussex Police and the CPS for failing to take the appropriate steps to safeguard the 24-year-old's life.

Kent Police did take the appropriate steps but failed to arrest Hajrudin Hasanovic for breaching bail conditions which stopped him from having any contact with his wife.

Mrs Hasanovic was about to be driven to a women's refuge by her mother Sharon De Souza when Hasanovic appeared at the side of her car and hauled his estranged wife over one of the children and out of the vehicle before plunging a knife into her, the inquest sitting in Chichester, West Sussex, has heard.

Serbian-born Hasanovic, 34, attacked Mrs Hasanovic, who was known as Cassie, outside her mother's home in Bognor on July 29, 2008.

Hasanovic, who was known as Harry, was facing deportation at the time of the killing and feared losing a custody battle for the children.

He was jailed for life, with a minimum of 18 years, for her murder at Lewes Crown Court on May 1 2009.

During the trial, Hasanovic was described as a "paranoid and jealous" partner who controlled his wife throughout their marriage and turned her from being bright and bubbly to a "petrified" young woman.

Following the verdict, West Sussex Coroner Penelope Schofield said she would be writing to the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo), Sussex Police and the CPS to recommend that information on domestic violence cases be shared across forces.

She also said there should be better policing in respect of non-molestation orders, a central point of contact where breaches could be reported and that training to deal with domestic violence cases should be addressed.

Mrs De Souza, Cassie's mother, said: "My daughter Cassie was a beautiful, courageous young woman, who did everything within her power to protect herself and her children.

"She was a wonderful mother whose greatest wish was the chance to watch her children grow up.

"Although her situation was in the hands of three different agencies, ultimately these agencies let her down.

"The jury have unanimously decided what we always felt: that there were a number of serious failings by all three state agencies that ultimately impacted on her chance to a life.

"I would like to thank the Coroner and the jury for taking such care in considering the evidence and holding these agencies to account."

Mrs De Souza also thanked her barrister Karon Monaghan and Refuge, calling for a public inquiry "in the hope that another family does not have to go through what we have".

Detective Chief Inspector Pierre Serra of Sussex Police said: "This was a wicked and callous crime in which Hajrudin Hasanovic brutally murdered his wife, Cassandra Hasanovic, in a public street and in front of their children and her mother. We continue to express our sincere condolences to Cassie's family who have suffered this tragic loss of a mother and daughter.

"Sussex Police acknowledges the verdict of the jury in this case and awaits the Coroner's letter highlighting points raised in the inquest.

"This case was a watershed moment for Sussex Police and we have already learnt a number of important lessons from it in terms of how we deal with cases of domestic abuse. The protection of life is our highest priority and we will do all we can to prevent such crimes as these from happening. We are determined to do everything we can to bring justice for all victims of domestic abuse."

A spokesman added: "As a direct result of Cassie's murder in 2008 Sussex Police undertook a thorough review of our risk assessment procedure for officers responding to allegations of domestic abuse, with the following outcomes:

· A specific risk assessment tool on domestic abuse and harassment was introduced as part of an ACPO pilot scheme in September 2008 and Sussex Police was one of the first police forces to adopt it in 2009 following the pilot.

· The new risk assessment tool specifically identifies the victim's perception of the risk and the victim's level of fear.

· All cases which are identified as high risk are now passed to Sussex Police Adult Protection Teams who specialise in domestic abuse investigations and in dealing with both the victims and perpetrators of domestic abuse.

· Training for response officers and control centre staff was reviewed in the light of this case and this remains an ongoing priority for the Force.

· Increasing awareness of domestic abuse, both inside and outside the Force, has become a priority for Sussex Police. We have a dedicated intranet site on domestic abuse for officers and Sussex Police was the first police force in England to be awarded White Ribbon status in recognition of the work being done to tackle domestic abuse.

"Since the review was completed and the new procedures were implemented, reporting of domestic abuse cases to Sussex Police has increased by more than 20% from an average of 51 a day in 2008/09 to 63 a day in 2012/13."