'Two-hour delay' in sending police to scene where woman was stabbed 173 times
PUBLISHED: 12:46 17 October 2019 | UPDATED: 13:59 17 October 2019
Police in Essex have been urged to improve their call handling procedures after 34-year-old Suzanne Brown, from Braintree, was killed by her partner in a "frenzied attack".
The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) investigated the circumstances surrounding the death of Ms Brown and have now recommended Essex Police introduces new measures to prevent similar situations happening again.
The watchdog's investigation discovered there was a two-hour delay in allocating officers to attend the flat Ms Brown shared with Mr Neate, following a 999 call made by Mr Neate's parents raising concerns about the couple. They found no evidence of misconduct on behalf of the police, but three people in the force's control room have faced management action over the incident.
Ms Brown died on December 16, 2017, in Braintree. She was killed by her partner, Jake Neate, and was stabbed 173 times.
Just hours before she died, at around 9.30pm, Mr Neate's mother contacted Essex Police expressing concerns about her son and Ms Brown.
Following a second call the same evening by Mr Neate's parents, officers arrived at the address shortly after midnight and discovered Ms Brown with serious injuries, from which she later died.
Mr Neate was arrested at the scene and charged with murder. He was later deemed unfit to stand trial and was given an indeterminate hospital order.
After a referral from Essex Police, the IOPC launched an investigation into how the force handled and graded the phone call made by Mrs Neate on December 15. They also looked into more complaints made by Mr Neate's parents concerning the timeliness of the police response that evening, and to a call Jake Neate made to the police the day before the attack.
The watchdog has recommended that Essex Police:
- Introduces a measure for control room staff to be notified when emergency calls go past their target response times
- Provides callers with an assigned grading and estimated police attendance time to urgent incidents, in line with national guidance.
'Call not categorised correctly'
Sarah Green, the IOPC's regional director, said: "Our sympathies remain with the family of Suzanne Brown and all those affected by her tragic death. Our investigation found the initial call to the force control room had not been categorised correctly as a domestic incident.
"This meant associated processes, including risk questions being asked that may have aided the response, were not triggered.
She added: "The call was graded as a 'priority', meaning a police response within 60 minutes, and not an 'emergency', which would have required a response within 15 minutes.
"The investigation found that the decision in relation to the grading based on the information known at the time by the call handler was consistent with local and national guidance.
"We identified there was no measure in place to highlight calls to control room staff which had exceeded their target response times and have asked the force to act on this learning.
"We have also recommended that Essex Police ensures its force control room staff provide callers with an associated grading and an estimated time for when officers will attend. This would bring the force in line with national guidelines."
An inquest into Ms Brown's death is due to be held in March 2020, and a domestic homicide review is also under way.
Essex Police did not wish to comment further on the IOPC's recommendations.