Murder bride's father sues over 999 'bungle'

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The Independent Online
THE FATHER of Nicola Fuller, whose 999 call for help was ignored as she lay dying from gunshot wounds, is to sue British Telecom for negligence.

Michael Johnson, 52, said his daughter's call was treated as a hoax by an operator. The murderer of Nicola, 27, and her husband of six months, Harry Fuller, 45, had already shot her three times - splintering her jaw and damaging her tongue - when she tried to get the police.

Stephen Young left her for dead, but she managed to crawl to the bedroom of her cottage in Wadhurst, East Sussex. She dialled 999 but could not make herself understood. The operator logged the call as a 'child on the line'.

But Young heard her attempts to get the police, went back and killed her with a fourth shot in the back of the head. Young, the Fullers' insurance broker and a gun enthusiast, was given two life sentences by Hove Crown Court last month.

Mr Johnson blames BT for his daughter's desperate realisation in her final moments that she could not get help as the killer returned to find her. He met Graham McCubbin, BT's sector manager for operator services in south-east England, on Friday and said he would sue and go to the press unless the operator was sacked and the family received compensation.

BT managers said that the operator had been left deeply shocked. She had been on sick leave for months and the company had to look after her.

An internal disciplinary inquiry was under way into what went wrong but the results would remain confidential.

They added that any compensation claim would have to be dealt with by their lawyers.

''The meeting was a whitewash and a complete waste of time,' said Mr Johnson afterwards.

'I have no alternative but to sue. Their attitude was that the operator had made a mistake but that was the end of it.

'They refused to identify the operator and said that their disciplinary procedures were none of my concern.

'Although they admitted the error, they told me that they would continue operating the same system of filtering emergency calls which had been agreed with Oftel and the Home Office.

'It is appalling and if this is the case the public has a right to know.'

The judge did not criticise BT at the trial. The jury heard that Mrs Fuller's call was answered almost immediately.

The operator asked what service she wanted. Mrs Fuller made an unintelligible sound. The operator said 'pardon'. The tape of the call played to the jury then has the sound of the handset of an extension downstairs being lifted by Young, as he calmly checked on what was happening. Doors were heard opening and closing. There were squeals as Mrs Fuller heard Young returning up the stairs to shoot her in the head through a duvet.

Mr Johnson claimed that his daughter called out 'please, please' and could be heard calling for the police on a section of the tape the jury did not hear.

Sussex Police believe that Mr Fuller, a car salesman, was killed because he talked about how much money he carried. As Mr Fuller's broker, Young knew that the car dealer dealt in cash and often carried thousands of pounds. Young was a member of a gun club and was deeply in debt.

BT has admitted that proper procedures for dealing with the 22 million 999 calls it receives each year were not followed in this case.

A spokesman said: 'We have expressed our deepest sympathy to Mr Johnson and his family. He has not accepted our explanation that this was a tragic one-off.'

Mr Johnson said: 'Nicola cried out and then screamed before a gunshot, yet the operator assumed it was the gurglings of a two-year-old.

'The police station was 200 yards away and the killer could have been caught red-handed and my daughter might have lived.'

(Photograph omitted)