IPCC publishes investigation report into Essex Police contact with Jeanette Goodwin prior to her murder
30 October 2012
The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) is today issuing its findings from an investigation into Essex Police contact with a woman prior to her murder last year in Southend.
Jeanette Goodwin, 47, was found by police with multiple stab wounds at her home in Quebec Avenue, Southend on the evening of Sunday 24 July 2011. Martin Bunch was subsequently arrested and was convicted of her murder in August this year. Having been convicted on 21 June 2011 of battery against Jeanette Goodwin, for which he received a conditional discharge, when arrested for harassment and on a separate matter of actual bodily harm days later, Mr Bunch was released on conditional bail by South-East Essex magistrates’ court. Police then arrested him three times for breaches including for having removed his electronic tag, and on two of those occasions he was released by the magistrates’ court on bail conditions not to contact Mrs Goodwin.
Mrs Goodwin made seven reports to police from January 2011 of harassment and domestic violence by Mr Bunch, her ex-partner, prior to her death. Her last call to police was on the day of her murder, hours before she was found by police.
The IPCC investigation found that Essex Police took Mrs Goodwin’s reports of domestic violence seriously from the outset, offered her practical assistance, and put Martin Bunch before the courts on several occasions, strongly urging his remand in custody, on the basis it was the only way to effectively protect Mrs Goodwin. However, on the day of her murder they did not provide an essential emergency response to a high-risk victim. This was due to a breakdown of communication, a lack of resources and a failure to appropriately prioritise the case. Vital intelligence checks were not made, which would have alerted the decision makers to the danger Mrs Goodwin was in and her repeated expressions of fear were not recorded by the call taker.
Throughout their contact, police encouraged Mrs Goodwin to engage with them, to pursue her allegations against the offender, and to consider help from specialist domestic abuse organisations. She accepted the offer of a panic alarm, which was installed at her home. Officers referred her case to a multi-agency risk assessment conference (MARAC) and a safety plan was developed.
However, the investigation found there were shortcomings by Essex Police in responding to Jeanette Goodwin’s call to them at around 2.40 pm on the day of her murder, in which she reported further harassment, stated five times that she was scared, and that Martin Bunch had been at her fence. Mrs Goodwin said she needed to go out to town and would be home by 4.30 pm for an officer to see her, and her demeanour was noted as ‘calm, male not present’ by the police call-taker. The fact Mrs Goodwin said she was scared was not noted on the police log. No background or intelligence checks were made to inform the police response.
These factors, combined with too few supervisory staff in the control room as well as limited officer resources on the Southend division on an operationally busy day, led to the call not being treated as urgent, which it should have been. The investigation also found that a lack of clarity in Essex Police’s domestic abuse policy and working practice was partially responsible for the lack of background and intelligence checks being conducted. There was no further police contact with Mrs Goodwin prior to around 7.40 pm that evening when her home panic alarm was activated. Officers swiftly attended and found her with multiple stab wounds.
IPCC Commissioner, Rachel Cerfontyne, said:
“Police arrested Martin Bunch several times, put him before the courts, and strongly recommended his detention in custody as the only way to ensure Jeanette Goodwin’s safety.
“The inadequate Essex Police response on the day of the murder contrasted with the concerted effort made by the force to protect Jeanette Goodwin in the preceding months.
“The system in place then was badly flawed, not utilising intelligence checks to inform decision-making when prioritising incidents. The call taker’s perception of Mrs Goodwin’s calmness and her stated intention to go out shopping were wrongly used as a reason not to dispatch officers. There was a failure to recognise, in the light of the known history of this case, that Mr Bunch’s presence close to her home, in breach of his bail conditions, required immediate and urgent action to try and arrest him. He had clearly become obsessed with her, his persistent stalking and harassment were strong indicators of how dangerous he was.”
The IPCC has made four recommendations to Essex Police around the handling of domestic violence incidents by the Force Control Room (FCR). None of the actions of individual police officers or members of staff amounted to misconduct. As a result of the IPCC investigation, four members of police staff working in the FCR and one police officer have received performance debriefs from a senior officer at Essex Police. The force has revised its domestic abuse policy to set out clear roles within the FCR, to ensure background and intelligence checks are carried out quickly following calls, and improve training for staff.
A Domestic Homicide Review is looking at the involvement of other agencies in Mrs Goodwin’s case.
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