Harvey Nichols killing: Father blames mother over daughter's death

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The Independent Online

The parents of a beauty consultant at Harvey Nichols who was killed by a former boyfriend clashed angrily over who was to blame for her death as it was disclosed that her killer smuggled the murder weapon from Slovakia to the UK in a tourist coach.

Michal Pech, 30, was high on cocaine when he shot Clare Bernal four times in the head in front of terrified shoppers in September. The Czech national, a former security guard at the Knightsbridge store, then turned the gun on himself, an inquest into the deaths heard. He had previously been charged with harassing her and was on bail when he travelled to Slovakia.

The Westminster coroner, Dr Paul Knapman, said he would consider widening the inquest after hearing of an alleged catalogue of blunders by the police, prosecutors and the courts leading up to the 22-year-old's death.

Joshua Dubin, representing Miss Bernal's mother, applied under the European Convention on Human Rights to broaden the remit of the proceedings. "Here was a man on bail who the system allowed to travel to a foreign country without supervision and bring back a pistol. On the face of it, the system failed to observe that and deal with it," he said.

The inquest also heard evidence from the dead woman's father, in which he appeared to blame Mrs Bernal for her death. Martyn Bernal said his ex-wife had "trivialised" his daughter's concerns when Pech started stalking her after the break up of their brief relationship in February. Pech began following her, pestering her with phone calls and loitering outside her home. He was arrested twice and dismissed from his job at the Harvey Nichols store in London.

But Mr Bernal, describing Miss Bernal as "extremely naive and not worldly-wise", said Mrs Bernal had accused their daughter of being "selfish" when she raised the matter of being stalked. "When Clare talked to her mother, she did not take the matter seriously enough and accused Clare of being selfish in her approach to her as she had her own problems to deal with. Because the matter was trivialised by her mother, she did not come to me. The two things that could have saved Clare's life would have been for her to leave her job and leave her flat. Neither of these actions were taken or suggested by her mother," Mr Bernal said.

Responding to her former husband's claims, Mrs Bernal broke down, sobbing: "I had an extremely close relationship with my daughter and I would have done anything. I thought that the police had it in hand and that she was safe. That is my mistake and I have to live with that."

Following his second arrest for stalking on 10 April, Pech spent eight days in Belmarsh high security prison for breaching his bail condition. On 19 April he appeared by video link at Tower Bridge magistrates' court and was bailed with similar conditions to the previous occasion, which included not contacting Miss Bernal. The case was adjourned until 31 August.

But on 22 or 23 April, he travelled to Slovakia and bought and registered a handgun and returned to the UK on or around 11 August to meet his solicitors. Checks failed to pick up that he was carrying a gun.

On 31 August he appeared at Tower Bridge magistrates' court and was bailed to 21 September. Eight days before that, he went to the store and shot dead Miss Bernal and himself.

The inquest was adjourned until 19 January.