The Death of Maria Stubbings

The following is the tail end of the IPCC (Incompetent Poodles of Constabulary Corruption) report, two years on from the murder of Maria Stubbings, killed by a violent man with a previous conviction for the murder of a girlfriend.  The first part of the report deals with idiot law which means a conviction outside the UK doesn’t really count.  No note is made that police, knowing this, should not give up, but take more steps to protect vulnerable people in such circumstances.  Any ‘we could do nothing because the conviction was in Germany’ is pathetic – having identified idiot law, police should have taken reasonable steps to protect Maria, including injunctions or an ASBO to allow him to be locked up anywhere near the woman or her family.  Of course, they could really do with substantial powers beyond such measures, and the feeble ASBO has now gone.

The IPCC investigation also found that a combination of factors including human error, missed opportunities and individual failures in performance or duty by Essex Police officers and staff led to a serious failure to provide an adequate response to a vulnerable woman.

When Maria called police to report Chivers had been in her house without permission on 11 December 2008, the initial call taker failed to record the correct address for Maria, which meant that any alerts or flags attached to Maria’s address were not accessed. No further checks were undertaken, and the call was wrongly treated as a report of a burglary rather than a domestic violence matter. Had all of the information been gathered then, Maria should have been assessed as a highly vulnerable victim of domestic violence, and received the immediate response required. The IPCC has concluded that the call handler should face action for poor performance. It has also recommended that Essex Police examine and review their policies and procedures with regard to call handling, call grading and call taker identification of domestic violence incidents. It should be reiterated to call takers the importance of identifying risk factors to enable further questions to be asked and an appropriate risk assessment to be made. In particular, any information that could relate to domestic abuse or a previous history between individuals should trigger appropriate background checks to be made to equip attending officers with all known information that would assist in their response.

The next day a Police Community Support Officer found Maria’s 15-year-old son during school-time in a car at a park with Marc Chivers. On returning her son to Maria’s house, police officers witnessed Maria’s shock and distress, and her say to her son ‘you know what he’s done’. The following day Maria informed police that she did not want to pursue the burglary report, but the allegation later came to the attention of a detective inspector who was rightly concerned.

Commissioner Rachel Cerfontyne said: “An important issue here is that women fleeing domestic violence have many reasons why they may withdraw statements, and it is important that police do not draw a conclusion from the woman’s actions, but rather proceed accordingly on the basis of the evidence.”

On 17 December a police visit to Maria’s home to check on her welfare did not take place because the female officer said she could not find any other officer to accompany her. The IPCC investigation concluded that, having assessed the risk to herself as too great to visit alone, not attending Maria’s house that night was a failure in duty to properly consider the immediate risk to a highly vulnerable woman and her son. This officer therefore has a case to answer for misconduct.

At around 7 pm on 18 December two police officers, including the officer who failed to attend the night before, went to Maria’s house and were invited in by Marc Chivers. He said Maria was away staying with friends and he was looking after the household. Despite Maria’s car being on the drive, the officers accepted Chivers story and left. The IPCC concluded that action for poor performance should also be considered against these officers.

Rachel Cerfontyne added: “I am unable to make sense of the ease with which two officers were fobbed off by Marc Chivers at the house when they turned up on 18 December. They were far too easily persuaded by the account of a man they knew to be a convicted murderer that Maria had gone to stay with friends – far more probing questions of Chivers should have been asked.”

On hearing this information the next morning, the detective inspector was not satisfied and sent officers back to the house. While searching the ground floor, a detective constable opened a door in the hallway and, pulling away what appeared to be a pile of coats, discovered Maria’s body. Her son was not at the house and safe elsewhere. A post-mortem established the cause of death as strangulation.

My first question would be ‘why two years’?  That’s two years in which this kind of crappy cop performance could repeat, and almost certainly has.  This was going on when I finished, 30 years ago.

Next would come – ‘why are you dealing with this case in isolation? – there are regular incidents like this and claims to ‘learn lessons’ – it should be in the IPCC remit to look at this – why has nothing been learned?

This looks like a case of dire supervision.  The investigation does not seem, to raise these issues.

A number of plods are recommended for discipline.  This is two years on and they appear to have acted like gawps.  Why did their own supervision not deal with them?

This is very sad stuff and appears to be going on all round the country.  If it’s this bad with a known murderer, what else is going on?  What ‘culture’ allows a police woman not to attend a potential serious crime to protect a member of the public because she couldn’t find anyone to go with her?  If it’s true going on her own would have got her into trouble, a lot of rethinking needs to be done – Maria was being killed, or could have  been.

Where is the investigation of why the dealing cops were so useless?  We all know they deal with loads of dross, but they appear to have no clue on what to prioritise.  Essex PSD should have dealt with the under-performing officers, including supervisors.  The IPCC should long ago have been collating the widespread problems long ago.  Have they done anything useful?  I doubt it.

The failings in these matters are much wider than any police bungling.  Where were the Block sergeants and inspector in all of this farce?  None existent or stuck up old drippers?  Who is responsible for such crap law, or police disbursement and attitudes that are so inadequate?

The need is for a wide investigation into what victims get  when reporting offences and intimidation to police, and what our courts are actually wasting time on, and who is getting the money spent.