Police failed to check 999 call before householder was stabbed to death

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The Independent Online

Scotland Yard failed to send any police officers to answer a 999 call close to the home of a man who was allegedly murdered by a burglar shortly after the emergency call was made, it was disclosed yesterday.

Scotland Yard failed to send any police officers to answer a 999 call close to the home of a man who was allegedly murdered by a burglar shortly after the emergency call was made, it was disclosed yesterday.

About 90 minutes after the 999 call was made in west London, John Pettit, 60, died from a stab wound to the heart after he and his wife arrived home and apparently disturbed an intruder.

An inquiry has been set up by the Metropolitan Police into why the 999 call was categorised by the police civilian operator as not requiring an immediate police response. The operator has been transferred to other duties pending the investigation.

The 999 call reporting an attempted burglary was made by a resident in Woodhall Gate, Pinner, on Thursday last week. The resident heard a burglar alarm ringing for four or five minutes in a house in the same street, and reported seeing a possible suspect at the rear of the building.

Mr Pettit died after he and his wife, Brenda, arrived home in nearby Uxbridge Road, and discovered an alleged intruder. After a scuffle along the back gardens of the houses, Mr Pettit was found with a fatal stab wound. When police arrived he was alive, but despite attempts to resuscitate him he died at the scene.

Scotland Yard said yesterday that part of the reason no officers were sent immediately to the call at Woodhall Gate was that they were busy dealing with other incidents.

A spokesman said: "It is a matter of deep regret that we did not get to Woodhall Gate with an immediate response.

"When police were called to the address the burglar alarm had been ringing for at least four minutes and neighbours had shouted a verbal challenge to any suspect who may have still been at the premises.

"This was one of a number of emergency calls that were being responded to in Harrow at that time and the average response time was nine-and-a-half minutes. It is highly unlikely that the suspect would have been in the area by the time the police arrived. The civilian operator who dealt with this call has been removed from call-handling duties pending the outcome of an investigation."

Since Mr Pettit death in the affluent London suburb residents have expressed anger that their local police station and others in the area were no longer open 24 hours a day.

Mr Pettit's family issued a statement yesterday saying: "What is this world coming to when a hard-working, honest man ... is brutally murdered.This tragic end to John's life will always be incredibly hard to come to terms with."

* On Thursday a 43-year-old man appeared at Harrow magistrates' court charged with attempted burglary, burglary and the murder of Mr Pettit.

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