28/04/2006

Police handling of Hayley Richards' case 'poor'

Wiltshire Police have been criticised by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) over the handling of a case which resulted in the murder of a pregnant woman.

Hayley Richards,was murdered in her Trowbridge flat by her boyfriend, Hugo Quintas last June. The Portuguese factory worker slit the 23-year-old's throat.

Six days before the murder, Hayley, who was two months pregnant, had complained to police after Quintas attacked her. She told police that she was "petrified" of him.

The IPCC said that the investigation into the case had been "poor" and said that "institutional failures" had led to police failing to arrest Quintas.

The IPCC upheld two complaints by Ms Richards' family against Wiltshire Police regarding the investigation.

The IPCC report highlighted one occasion when Ms Richards told police where Quintas could be found, but the police failed to arrest him. Two of the four officers on patrol, according the report, were attending reports of a dog locked in a car.

The IPCC said that a "clear opportunity for an arrest" had been lost.

IPCC Commissioner Ian Bynce said: "This was a tragic loss for Hayley's family and friends. Wiltshire Constabulary's response to a woman who had reported a serious assault was not good enough and the force failed to give a victim of domestic violence the priority and protection she deserved.

"The IPCC did not find that any individual officer had seriously failed in their duty, but we did conclude there were systematic failures which led to insufficient priority being given to this victim of domestic violence. There was also a failure to show the positive and effective action needed from all officers and staff involved.

"There were two occasions when Hayley's attacker could have been arrested. Once when Hayley rang the police to report that Quintas was in a local pub and later when two traffic officers stopped Quintas in his car.

"We cannot say whether these lost opportunities led to her death, but our report has made recommendations to Wiltshire to ensure that better procedures are put in place to give officers the training and information they need to protect victims of domestic violence."

Quintas flew to Portugal the day after the murder and was arrested in Spain. He was sentenced to life imprisonment for Hayley's murder last month and ordered to serve a minimum of 17 years behind bars.

Wiltshire Police have issued an apology.

(KMcA/CD)

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