Police 'failed murder victim Hayley'

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The Independent Online

Police failed a pregnant woman who reported being attacked by a boyfriend who later murdered her, an investigation found today.

Hayley Richards, 23, told officers she was "petrified" of factory worker Hugo Quintas after she was attacked at her flat.

But Wiltshire Constabulary failed to arrest the Portuguese man on two occasions despite her desperate warnings.

At one point officers were sent to help a dog locked in a car rather than going to detain Quintas at a nearby pub, according to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) report.

Six days after the waitress's initial plea for help in June last year, Quintas, 24, slashed her from ear to ear with a craft knife at her flat in Trowbridge.

He was jailed for life last month after being convicted of her murder and ordered to serve a minimum of 18 years.

IPCC Commissioner Ian Bynoe said Wiltshire Constabulary's response to Miss Richards' report of a serious assault was "not good enough" and it had "failed to give a victim of domestic violence the priority and protection she deserved".

The investigation identified "systemic failures" and also criticised police failing to be "conscientious and diligent in their duties".

It did not find that any specific individuals had "seriously failed in their duty".

Mr Bynoe said: "We cannot say whether these lost opportunities led to her death, but our report has made recommendations to Wiltshire to ensure that better procedures are put in place to give officers the training and information they need to protect victims of domestic violence."

The chief constable of Wiltshire Police said today that he was "deeply sorry" for mistakes made and vowed that lessons would be learned from the case.

Martin Richards accepted that his force's investigation into the initial assault on Miss Richards on June 5 was "below the standard she had a right to expect".

In a statement released this morning, he said: "As the IPCC has pointed out, there were some aspects of that investigation which were poor, and there was certainly one occasion, when Hayley rang police to tell us Quintas's whereabouts on June 7, that we had a good chance of arresting him but we didn't act fast enough.

"In essence, at that moment, we made the wrong decision and for that I am deeply sorry."

He said the force had already made changes in line with the IPCC recommendations about training, supervision and support provided to staff.

Responding to the report today, Miss Richards' brother, Paul Richards, said: "We feel bitter and angry about the week before Hayley was murdered.

"We do feel that Wiltshire Police should change their policies and everything else to make sure no other family goes through what we have gone through."

He told BBC News the family remains "devastated" by the death.

"The police have got to learn by their mistakes and I feel that Wiltshire Constabulary will learn from the mistakes they have made."

He called for the force to react with greater urgency to reports from alleged victims of domestic violence, specifically recommending "a quicker response to phone calls and the prioritising of how they do certain cases".

Police could have arrested Quintas on June 7, when Miss Richards called to say he was in the Wetherspoons pub in Trowbridge.

However, the IPCC found his risk had been assessed as "low" and managers were unwilling to divert officers who were dealing with a distressed dog in a car and a driver suspected to be under the influence of drugs. When police eventually arrived at the pub he had gone.

A second opportunity was missed on June 10, the day before Quintas stabbed Miss Richards to death.

He had been stopped by officers in Trowbridge after they spotted the Rover car he was driving had a broken rear light.

But despite still being wanted over the brutal attack on Miss Richards five days earlier, he was issued with a ticket and allowed to drive away.

The factory worker, who only had a provisional licence, had also been ordered to produce his driving documents after being flagged down by traffic officers in April.

He failed to do so within the seven-day time limit, but no further action was taken against him.