999 call handler sacked after police delay in murder case

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The Independent Online

A call handler was sacked after an investigation into why police took so long to respond to the 999 calls of a woman who was murdered by an ex-boyfriend.

Joanna Michael, 25, was stabbed to death by Cyron Williams in the early hours of August 5 last year at her home in Cardiff.

Despite making two 999 calls, it took police 22 minutes to respond.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) concluded the mother-of-two was failed by Gwent Police, the neighbouring South Wales Police and the 999 system itself.

Gwent Police said the call handler was sacked for gross misconduct.

A spokeswoman said: "We can confirm that following a disciplinary hearing on October 15 2010, a Gwent Police call handler was dismissed from her employment with Gwent Police with immediate effect on grounds of gross misconduct.

"The individual has the right to appeal this decision, therefore it would be inappropriate to make any further comment at this stage.

"The IPCC has informed the family of Joanna Michael and our thoughts remain with them at this time."

South Wales Police said one of its call handlers had been dealt with by its internal disciplinary procedures. He continues to work for the force.

A spokeswoman said: "We would like to reassure the public that several key changes have been made to the way we handle emergency calls since the conclusion of this tragic case and the report by the IPCC.

"Every day, South Wales Police responds to around 1,500 incidents and our control room staff are required to continually apply their judgment and response guidelines to many complex and often confusing scenarios."

An action plan has been produced to stop such an incident happening again, including "putting rigorous processes in place to iron out issues with mis-routed emergency calls" and training for control room staff.

Ms Michael's mobile phone calls and those of concerned neighbours were unaccountably mis-routed to the Gwent force by a phone mast.

Time was lost as details were passed to South Wales Police while the handler of the initial call failed to take full details.

As a result the full urgency of Ms Michael's situation was missed by South Wales Police, which failed to send officers to the scene immediately.

Only when a screaming Ms Michael made a second call, which was again mis-routed to Gwent, were officers sent to the scene.

A drunken Williams had burst into her home in St Mellons, Cardiff, to find Ms Michael in bed with another man.

He convinced the man to leave them alone to discuss their relationship, going so far as to drive him home across Cardiff.

On his return, a heated argument erupted which left Ms Michael dead after suffering 72 separate wounds at the hands of Williams.

He was jailed for life with a recommendation he serve 20 years after admitting murder at Cardiff Crown Court in March.