Essex

Essex Police failures in Maria Stubbings murder inquiry

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Media captionMaria Stubbings' brother Manuel Fernandez and her daughter Celia Peachy on the police failings

The police watchdog has criticised Essex Police for its handling of the case of a woman murdered by her ex-boyfriend.

Maria Stubbings, 50, died in 2008 when she was strangled in her Chelmsford home by convicted killer Marc Chivers.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) said serious police failures meant Ms Stubbings was not afforded the protection she deserved.

It also called for a change in the law relating to people convicted abroad.

Essex Assistant Chief Constable Derek Benson said he has apologised to Miss Stubbings' family for the "inadequate" response by his force.

The IPCC report said that in July 2008, Chivers assaulted Ms Stubbings and a risk assessment was carried out by Essex Police and Chivers was considered a "very high risk perpetrator".

In October 2008 he was convicted of assaulting Miss Stubbings and received a four-month jail sentence but as he had already served time on remand he was released immediately.

Chivers had previously been convicted of the murder of a girlfriend in Germany in 1993 and had served 15 years in jail before being deported back to the UK.

Recalled to prison

Police knew of the conviction and the fact Chivers had been convicted for an assault of Ms Stubbings, but did not have the legal powers to impose the normal restrictions on someone convicted of a murder because it was committed abroad.

Had Chivers committed the first murder in the UK he would have been on life licence following his release, and on his conviction for assault in July 2008 he could have been recalled to prison.

Image caption Maria Stubbings was murdered by her ex-boyfriend, who had a history of domestic violence

On 11 December 2008 Ms Stubbings called police to report a burglary at her house which she suspected had been carried out by Chivers.

The next day police found Ms Stubbings' 15-year-old son in a car with Chivers and took him home.

Police officers witnessed her shock and saw her say to her son "you know what he's done".

The following day she 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 concerned.

The IPCC found that when Ms Stubbings reported that Chivers had been in her house, the initial call taker failed to record the correct address which meant that any alerts attached to her 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.

The IPCC said the call handler should face action for poor performance.

'Fobbed off'

It 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.

At some point between 16 and 19 December 2008, Chivers murdered Ms Stubbings.

A planned police visit to Ms Stubbings' home on 17 December did not take place because the female officer said she could not find anyone to accompany her.

On 18 December two police officers went to the house where Chivers said Ms Stubbings was staying with friends and he was looking after the home, despite her car being on the drive.

Image caption Marc Chivers served 15 years in Germany for murder before being deported back to the UK

Ms Stubbings' daughter Celia Peachy said of the police: "They didn't do their job.

"If they had, after that first assault, directed her to a refuge, her life would have been saved. We will fight for justice."

IPCC Commissioner Rachel Cerfontyne added: "I am unable to make sense of the ease with which two officers were fobbed off by Marc Chivers.

"They were far too easily persuaded by the account of a man they knew to be a convicted murderer..."

Ms Stubbings' body was found the next day and a post-mortem examination found she had been strangled.

Her brother Manuel Fernandez said: "Clearly there were a series of events that were ignored.

"Two years to investigate this incident is just woeful for this family.

"Police had countless opportunities to intervene. We are going to pursue justice through a number of means including possibly civil."

Assistant Chief Constable Benson added: "We seek to provide a professional response to each and every report we receive. Sadly, in this particular case we failed Maria Stubbings."

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