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Police refusal to provide details about daughter’s abusive partner contributed to murder, mother claims

Exclusive: Hilary Stinchcombe claims she was wrongly denied information about the violent history of her daughter’s partner – who then killed both her daughter and her granddaughter

Maya Oppenheim
Women’s Correspondent
Sunday 31 December 2023 18:02 GMT
Christopher Boon murdered his partner Laura Mortimer and his 11-year-old stepdaughter Ella Dalby in the early hours of May 2018 – stabbing the pair 42 times in the kitchen of her home in Gloucester
Christopher Boon murdered his partner Laura Mortimer and his 11-year-old stepdaughter Ella Dalby in the early hours of May 2018 – stabbing the pair 42 times in the kitchen of her home in Gloucester (Hilary Stinchcombe)

The refusal by police to hand over potentially life-saving information about a woman’s husband – a convicted abuser – contributed to her murder, a bereaved mother has claimed.

Hilary Stinchcombe, whose daughter and granddaughter were brutally killed, told The Independent that their lives could have been saved if the police had informed the family of his history of domestic abuse.

The 61-year-old said the family were unfairly denied information about her daughter’s murderer, with the police wrongly telling them that the background check request must come directly from a victim of abuse.

Christopher Boon murdered his wife Laura Mortimer and his 11-year-old stepdaughter Ella Dalby in the early hours of May 2018. Boon stabbed the pair 42 times in the kitchen of Laura’s home in Gloucester.

Laura’s family had raised concerns to police under the scheme known as Clare’s Law – named after 36-year-old Clare Wood, who was murdered by an ex-boyfriend who had a record of violence against women.

The scheme, rolled out in 2014, enables people to ask police forces about an individual’s history of domestic abuse or violent offences.

Unbeknown to the family, Boon had been handed a suspended sentence for assaulting both his former partner and her mother in front of two children in 2010.

Gloucester Police pointed out that a combined domestic homicide review and a serious case review stated Ms Mortimer was told about her husband’s history of domestic abuse by a social worker but was unconcerned by it.

The review into the murders called for “social workers to have updated training on patterns of domestic violence to better understand how Laura and her children were impacted upon by the abuse and what actions they would take as a result of the training.”

Ms Stinchcombe said it was disgusting that police had failed to understand how rules around domestic abuse disclosures worked, and said she would not have let Boon near Laura’s children or in her house if she had realised he had previous convictions.

“He beat her up on a Boxing Day morning,” she said. “She was taken to hospital with a broken nose and black eyes.”

She added: “My other daughter went down there to the police station to [ask for] a Clare’s Law disclosure afterwards, and they said no. She was convinced he had previous convictions – somebody had said that to her – but none of us knew until the court date.”

It comes as The Independent revealed that thousands of vulnerable women are being left at serious risk of harm because the police are failing to hand over potentially life-saving information on abusers.

Data from the National Police Chiefs’ Council shows that more than half of the 20,226 background check requests on potential domestic abusers made between October 2021 and March 2022 were rejected.

Ms Stinchcombe described Boon as a “horrible, selfish, vile” individual who inflicted violence and abuse on Laura and would “do anything” to keep her away from her own daughter.

“She would go out with her friends,” she recalled. “He would ring her every five minutes. And when my daughter went out shopping, he would ring all the time: ‘How long are you going to be? Where are you? What are you doing?’”

Ms Stinchcombe said she is consumed by thoughts of the killing of her daughter and granddaughter every morning when she wakes up, and every night when she goes to sleep.

“I had to identify them,” she said. “It was so horrific. That is why I don’t sleep at night. I have flashbacks. Every time I lie down, I picture the day I had to identify their bodies.”

She advised anyone who is experiencing domestic abuse to escape, but never to tell the perpetrator they are leaving, and urged anyone who is worried about a loved one to seek a Clare’s Law disclosure.

A spokesperson for Gloucester Police noted that the review into the deaths of Laura and Ella stated that the force’s policy for Clare’s Law previously only permitted disclosure to the individual in the relationship.

“However, since the introduction of statutory government guidance in 2022, the constabulary will now consider disclosure to another person in particular circumstances,” the representative added.

This article was amended on 9 January 2024 to include the information that a combined domestic homicide review and a serious case review stated Ms Mortimer had personally been informed of her husband’s history of domestic abuse.

The national domestic abuse helpline offers support for women on 0808 2000 247, or you can visit the Refuge website. There is a dedicated men’s advice line on 0808 8010 327. Those in the US can call the domestic violence hotline on 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). Other international helplines can be found via www.befrienders.org

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