Murdered mother wanted police to end 'harassment'

Man who allegedly killed woman and two-year-old daughter had been reported to officers
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The Independent Online

At first glance, Bartram Avenue could be any leafy suburban street in Essex. Children squeal between bounces on a neighbour's trampoline as their parents gossip at an open front door. The mothers, though, were discussing the brutal double murder of a mother and her toddler just doors away.

In the early hours of Monday, Chrissie Chambers, 38, and her daughter Shania, two, were shot dead in their two-storey home, in Braintree, Essex. A 50-year-old man, Shania's father, David Oakes, is in hospital with a "significant" gunshot wound.

It emerged yesterday that less than two weeks ago Ms Chambers had told Essex Police she was being "pestered and harassed" by her 6ft5 former boyfriend.

She contacted officers on 27 May, the latest in two years of dialogue with Essex Police, an initial investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission has found. Ms Chambers showed officers 100 text messages from Oakes and made dozens of formal statements about his treatment of her.

Friends of Ms Chambers claimed that she had fallen into a vicious cycle of abuse at the hands of Oakes since the birth of Shania.

The alarm was only raised on Monday when Ms Chambers's other daughter, Chelsea, by a different father, fled the house by an upstairs window after her mother told her to "run for her life".

She ran 500 yards to the home of her father, Ian Flitt, who frantically rang police. When armed officers stormed in to Ms Chambers's home at 3.50am, they found a scene of horror: a dead mother and baby and the man maimed, but still alive.

Oakes was in Broomfield Hospital, Chelmsford, yesterday. Mr Flitt fought back tears as he said: "I wish he had killed himself. I don't have words to describe how much I hate that man.

"Thank God Chelsea got out. Chelsea is not very good – and I just hope that I am strong enough for her to come and live with me. She is so brave – I am so proud of her."

He added: "The police had been told for the past two weeks that he has been making threats and they were not doing nothing about it.

"After Chelsea came here and told me what was happening, I phoned the police and said 'He is not a bluffer' – I am telling you now.

"It could have been totally avoided. I hold Essex Police responsible. That's just not good enough – this could have been avoided."

Another friend, Karen Ballistat, said: "He once dragged her from the house next door by her hair so hard that a clump came out. The next day I saw her and she had had it all cut short. She said she just fancied a change but it was obvious why she had really done it."

Assistant Chief Constable Gary Beautridge, head of the Kent and Essex serious crime directorate, said the force had voluntarily referred the investigation to the police watchdog to discover if there were any "shortcomings" and if lessons could be learned.

"There have been a number of incidents where contact between the man in custody and Chrissie Chambers have been referred to Essex Police over the course of the last two years.

"The most fundamental role of the police is guardian ship and looking after vulnerable people, that's what I believe we do very, very well."

Chrissie's family, who described her as a "loving mother who would do anything for her children" said they have started planning a double funeral and asked mourners to wear a "flash of pink" in memory of innocent tot Shania.

Yesterday Chrissie's heartbroken family thanked well-wishers on an Facebook tribute site and said they were planning a funeral to remember the doting mum and her beautiful daughter.