Families of Nottingham victims say police chief has ‘blood on hands’ over missed chances to catch killer

‘If you’d done your job properly, my beautiful boy might be alive today’, said Barnaby Webber’s mother as she launched an excoriating attack on Nottinghamshire Police

Holly Evans
Thursday 25 January 2024 18:22 GMT
Emma Webber, the mother of Barnaby, said ‘true justice has not been served’
Emma Webber, the mother of Barnaby, said ‘true justice has not been served’ (Jacob King/PA Wire)

The mother of a student stabbed to death in a horrifying knife rampage in Nottingham has accused police of having “blood on your hands” after a series of failures meant his killer was free to carry out the attack.

Valdo Calocane stabbed Grace O’Malley-Kumar and Barnaby Webber, both aged 19, and 65-year-old school caretaker Ian Coates to death on 13 June last year.

In an emotional speech outside the court, Barnaby Webber’s mother Emma Webber said “true justice has not been served”, as Calocane was handed a hospital order and not jailed.

She went on to accuse the Crown Prosecution Service of not consulting with families over bringing manslaughter charges instead of murder charges.

Directing her anger towards Nottinghamshire Police assistant chief constable Rob Griffin, the distraught mother said: “If you had just done your job properly, there’s a very good chance my beautiful boy would be alive today.”

A talented cricketer, Mr Webber was knifed 10 times in a brutal attack while he walked home from a night out with his friend and aspiring medic Miss O’Malley-Kumar, who was also killed as she attempted to defend him.

The families of Barnaby Webber, Grace O’Malley-Kumar and Ian Coates outside Nottingham Crown Court (Jacob King/PA Wire)

Calocane, 32, had a history of mental health issues and was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia, yet was not under close supervision despite being “unlawfully at large”.

Since 2020, he had experienced psychotic delusions in which he believed he was being targeted by “malign forces” and had travelled to MI5 to plead for them to arrest him.

He repeatedly evaded contact with the community mental health team, was known to stop taking his medication and had been arrested after “viciously” assaulting a police officer in September 2021.

Yet by 13 June last year, he had been “unmedicated and out of touch with psychiatric services for almost 12 months”, and was in the grip of severe psychosis.

After lurking in the shadows wearing all-black clothing, he repeatedly stabbed the two 19-year-olds who had just finished celebrating the end of their exams.

He calmly walked away before travelling to nearby Magdala Road, where he killed Mr Coates, who was heard screaming and shouting “leave me” by witnesses.

Valdo Calocane’s three victims, Ian Coates, Barnaby Webber and Grace O’Malley-Kumar, were repeatedly stabbed and left to die

The prosecution accepted Calocane’s guilty pleas to manslaughter on the basis of diminished responsibility, after he denied murder.

In a comment directed towards assistant chief constable Griffin, Ms Webber continued: “We as a devastated family have been let down by multiple agency failings and ineffectiveness.

“The CPS (Crown Prosecution Service) did not consult us as has been reported – instead we have been rushed, hastened and railroaded.”

Ms Webber said the first meeting with the CPS was on 24 November and added: “We were presented with a fait accompli that the decision had been made to accept manslaughter charges.

“At no point during the previous five-and-a-half-months were we given any indication that this could conclude in anything other than murder.

Barnaby Webber and Grace O’Malley-Kumar pictured moments before they were killed (Nottinghamshire Police)

“We trusted in our system, foolishly as it turns out. We do not dispute that the murderer is mentally unwell and has been for a number of years.

“However the pre-meditated planning, the collection of lethal weapons, hiding in the shadows and brutality of the attacks are that of an individual who knew exactly what he was doing. He knew entirely that it was wrong but he did it anyway.”

The court heard that a search of Calocane’s backpack revealed two other knives and a scaffold pole which prosecutors say was not used in the attacks but served as “back up” should the dagger not be “available” to him.

After leaving Mr Coates to die in the street, Calocane stole his van and used it to mow down three pedestrians in the city centre, one of whom suffered critical injuries. He was arrested and tasered five minutes later.

Ms Webber said the victims and their families had been let down by multiple agencies (PA)

Calocane also pleaded guilty to three counts of attempted murder.

The son of Ian Coates, James, called for the services and organisations involved to be made accountable for failings in the case.

“The city of Nottingham has suffered a great loss,” he said. “The failures from the police, the CPS, the health service have resulted in the murder of my father and these two innocent students.”

Questioning decisions made by doctors over the handling of Calocane’s mental health, Ms Webber added: “Why was there no mental health assessment during his time in custody?

“Why was it the first time he had any assessment in mid-July for the defence report only? Why did he not begin to receive treatment till mid-September?

Valdo Calocane was arrested 90 minutes after the first killings (Notts Police/PA)

“And why did he remain in prison until the first of November? Importantly, why did Dr Blackwood, instructed by the CPS in August, wait until the 14th of November to interview and assess him?”

Assistant chief constable Griffin said in a statement on Wednesday that the force “should have done more” to arrest Calocane before the fatal attacks of 13 June.

Calcocane had allegedly assaulted a police officer in September 2021. In September 2022, after he failed to attend court over the assault, a warrant was issued for his arrest.

“The defendant was never arrested for that warrant which was still outstanding at the point of his arrest in June 2023,” Mr Griffin said.

“I have personally reviewed this matter and we should have done more to arrest him.”

Mr Griffin was approached for further comment through Nottinghamshire Police.

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in