The family of a woman murdered by a convicted killer has called for a public inquiry into the handling of domestic violence cases, following a second damning report into police failures over her death.
Maria Stubbings, 50, was killed following mistakes by police that left her at the mercy of her violent former partner, Marc Chivers, who had served time in prison in Germany for killing another woman.
Just months after his release from a German jail, Chivers was back behind bars in Britain for assaulting Ms Stubbings, a vulnerable woman with a history of mental health issues. But before he was released, police disabled a panic alarm at Ms Stubbings’s house and her repeated calls for help were not taken sufficiently seriously.
When police first turned up at the home in Chelmsford, they were told by Chivers that she had gone on a walking holiday – and they left after passing on a business card to her killer. They found her body the following day.
The family has called on the Home Secretary, Theresa May, to open a public inquiry into the way police and other agencies respond to such cases, with two women killed every week through domestic violence. The killing was one of three domestic abuse inquiries handled by Essex Police that was passed to the police watchdog because of failings in the investigation.
“If ever there was a case to be a catalyst for change, it’s this one because of the catalogue of failings,” said Manuel Fernandez, the victim’s brother. “We want justice for Maria and for all women facing domestic violence who are failed by the state.” Celia Peachey, Maria’s daughter, said: “She had a right to protection and she was denied that basic human right. I truly believe that she would still be alive today if the police had done their jobs properly.”
The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) released a damning second verdict into the case after complaints about inaccuracies in the organisation’s first report. As a result, three officers have now been given “management advice” – a low level of admonishment under the police disciplinary code.
The second report looked in more detail at how police responded to the threat to Ms Stubbings’s son Bengi, 15 at the time of the 2008 killing, who was in the house while his mother’s body was hidden under a pile of coats in a downstairs toilet. Chivers was jailed for life the following year.
The IPCC report said that police gave Ms Stubbings most protection from her abusive former partner while he was in prison. “When he was released both she and her son were left completely vulnerable,” it said.
Essex Police said it accepted the findings of the report, and Chief Constable Stephen Kavanagh offered to meet the family to apologise. He said significant changes had taken place since Ms Stubbings’s death. “We would urge anyone suffering at the hands of a violent offender to contact us immediately. Our pledge is this: we will listen to you and we will help you,” he said.
Failed by the state: Victims of abuse
Miss Wood, 36, was strangled and set on fire by an ex-boyfriend despite complaints to police. The IPCC said she had been let down by “individual and systemic” failings by Greater Manchester police.
Essex police was criticised by the IPCC for failing to send officers to a woman who had told them five times about her fears of a jealous ex-lover. Ms Goodwin, 47, was stabbed in her home in Southend, Essex, in 2011.