Stab victim Jeanette Goodwin was let down by Essex police, says IPCC


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The Independent Online

A domestic violence victim found stabbed to death in her home was let down by police who failed to respond urgently on the day of her murder.

Jeanette Goodwin, 47, was found by police with multiple stab wounds at her home in Quebec Avenue, Southend, Essex, on July 24 last year.

Martin Bunch was later arrested and convicted of her murder.

Today the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) said that although Essex Police had taken her previous reports of attacks seriously, it failed to "provide an essential emergency response to a high-risk victim".

The IPCC report said Bunch had been convicted of battery against Mrs Goodwin a month before her death.

He was given a conditional discharge but within days was arrested again for harassment and a separate allegation of actual bodily harm.

Magistrates released him on bail despite police pleas to have him remanded in custody, the report continues.

Police then arrested him a further three times for breaching his bail conditions.

The IPCC investigation found that Essex Police took Mrs Goodwin's reports of domestic violence seriously and offered her support.

Officers had "strongly urged" Bunch's remand in custody "on the basis it was the only way to effectively protect Mrs Goodwin".

A statement added: "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."

The family of Mrs Goodwin, a mother of three, issued a statement welcoming the findings and calling for reform in the way courts deal with victims of domestic violence.

They added: "Our main concerns are the justice system rather than police failings.

"Although justice has rightfully been served upon what we can only describe as an animal, this does not overshadow the obvious flaws within the justice system which greatly failed Jeanette and her chance of a peaceful and fulfilling life."

They were particularly concerned about Bunch removing an electronic tag in breach of his bail conditions.

The statement said: "This criminal system has to change and the appropriate measures must be taken to ensure that these tags cannot be removed and that criminals for stalking or domestic violence repeatedly breaching bail must be given a mandatory prison sentence before this horrific crime is committed to another loving mother.

"Unfortunately we will never know whether this would have had an impact on saving Jeanette's life, but we would hope that it will help other victims."

During a 999 call, Mrs Goodwin said five times that she was scared and that Bunch was outside her home, the report added.

An appointment was made for an officer to visit her later in the day but the fact that she was scared was not recorded and checks were not made on previous complaints.

There were too few officers on duty on an "operationally busy day" and domestic abuse policies "lacked clarity", the IPCC said.

IPCC Commissioner Rachel Cerfontyne said: "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.

"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."

Deputy Chief Constable Derek Benson offered his condolences to the family and friends of Mrs Goodwin on behalf of Essex Police.

He said the report "rightly identifies" failings but also highlights positive steps taken to protect her.

Mr Benson added: "I have apologised to Jeanette Goodwin's family for our failings on July 24 2011.

"The IPCC report found shortcomings in respect of four members of police staff and one acting police sergeant.

"The IPCC concluded that their actions did not amount to misconduct but did require debriefing with a senior officer to address performance measures, which has been done."

Since Mrs Goodwin's murder, the force has taken steps to improve on areas where shortcomings were found, he added.

This includes reviewing domestic abuse policies and setting up a domestic abuse intelligence team.

The force receives reports of some 85 domestic abuse incidents each day, amounting to about 2,500 every month.

"I understand how difficult it can be for victims of domestic abuse to make a report to the police. I also know that for some people continuing to support a prosecution can be hard," he added.

"The force endeavours to take positive action in respect of all incidents of domestic abuse."