IPCC finds police officers dealt appropriately with woman prior to the death of her son
An Independent Police Complaints Commission investigation has concluded that officers from Durham Constabulary and Northumbria Police dealt with concerns about Melanie Ruddell appropriately prior to the death of her son, Christy.
The independent investigation also concluded that nobody could have predicted that Ms Ruddell's behaviour would have resulted in her killing Christy on 9 August 2010.
The IPCC examined all police interaction with Ms Ruddell between Saturday 7 August and Monday 9 August.
Ms Ruddell, from Castle Eden in County Durham, contacted Northumbria Police at around 6.13pm on 7 August alleging that she had been sexually assaulted a week earlier in Sunderland. Northumbria Police forwarded the information to Durham Constabulary asking for their officers to visit Ms Ruddell.
Two officers attended and found Ms Ruddell with two of her friends. The two friends advised the officers that Ms Ruddell was behaving out of character.
The officers attempted to discuss the alleged sexual assault with Ms Ruddell but reported that she was confused and making little sense. The officers left Ms Ruddell in the care of her friends and advised they would make contact again the following morning. The officers reported their concerns about Ms Ruddell to their supervisors
However in the early hours of Sunday morning Ms Ruddell called police again stating she was afraid and believed someone was coming to her house to ‘get her'.
Ms Ruddell reported her concerns in two further calls that morning, both of which were relayed to Cleveland Police.
The two officers who had dealt with Ms Ruddell on the Saturday evening returned to her house. On this occasion, in addition to Ms Ruddell's friend, her brother was also in attendance. Plans were discussed to get medical help for Ms Ruddell and the officers left her in the care of her family.
Two officers from Northumbria Police, who had been assigned to deal with the sexual assault allegation, arrived at Ms Ruddell's home at around 4pm that day. While there they were advised via Ms Ruddell's friend that an ambulance was on its way due to the concerns about Ms Ruddell's mental health.
After Ms Ruddell had voluntarily gone to hospital in the ambulance the officers returned to South Shields police station. Further contact was made with Ms Ruddell's brother that evening and he advised that Ms Ruddell had refused to stay at the hospital. He further advised that Ms Ruddell and Christy would be staying at his home that night.
Ms Ruddell made further calls to Durham Constabulary and Northumbria Police that night about the alleged sexual assault. In one conversation Ms Ruddell reported that people were saying she had harmed Christy and that she was a paedophile. However Ms Ruddell was reportedly rambling and incoherent.
At no point during any of the police interaction had there been any concern for Christy's welfare. Although Ms Ruddell discussed some form of harm to Christy in this last telephone call, there was no real suggestion he had come to harm and both Ms Ruddell and Christy were known to be staying with her brother so were classed as being in a safe place.
Tragically at 7.58am that morning Ms Ruddell walked into Peterlee police station with Christy's body. He had been strangled.
Ms Ruddell pleaded guilty to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility in February 2011.
The IPCC investigation found that all the officers who had direct contact with Ms Ruddell had dealt with her appropriately and their actions had been justified and proportionate. As Ms Ruddell had been in her own home the officers had no powers to detain Ms Ruddell under Section 136 of the Mental Health Act. Equally the officers were aware of actions being taken by her family to get medical assistance.
Two telephone calls - one handled by a Cleveland Police call handler and one by a Durham Constabulary call handler – were found to be have been dealt with unprofessionally and inappropriately. The call to Cleveland in the early hours of Sunday morning was dealt with by the call handler telling Ms Ruddell to dial 999 again and ask for Durham Constabulary. The call handler who dealt with a call to Durham Constabulary in the early hours of Monday morning dismissed the call without making any notes. Management action has been taken against the call handlers in question.
IPCC Commissioner Nicholas Long said: "This was a terrible tragedy. From all the accounts I have seen Ms Ruddell was a devoted mother who suffered a sudden and severe breakdown. Ms Ruddell's family, friends and the officers involved over the course of these two days reported how caring she was to Christy. There was never any indication of a threat to Christy.
"The officers who visited Ms Ruddell showed care and compassion and assisted as much as they could. Nobody could have predicted that the events would have such a tragic conclusion.”
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