Police 'should have gone to woman's home' before murder

Reporter Kim Riley says the police accept the report's findings

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Police should have been sent to the Suffolk home of a murder victim after she called them the night before she was killed, a watchdog has found.

But a report into the death of Mary Griffiths, 38, in Bury St Edmunds adds that Suffolk Police could not have predicted her murder in May 2009.

"Delusional" killer John McFarlane, 40, was jailed for life for the murder.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) report said there were no misconduct issues.

The report added that it "could not be said" that the immediate arrival of an officer would have prevented the "horrific crime".

The IPCC report says that at about 1800 BST on 5 May 2009, Ms Griffiths made a non-emergency call to Suffolk Police to report that McFarlane was harassing her.

The call was graded as requiring a non-urgent response and at about 2145 BST Suffolk Police telephoned Ms Griffiths back, and with her agreement arranged to visit her the next day.

At about 0245 BST the following morning, McFarlane broke into the home of Ms Griffiths in Bury St Edmunds and shot her with a bolt gun.

The IPCC recommended:

  • Refresher training for call-takers and dispatchers and better guidance aimed at assessing levels of distress
  • Improving the system for allocating police resources and the recording of incidents involving mental health issues

"Having studied the operational demands on police resources in the area that evening, we have determined it would have been possible for an officer to attend," says the report.

John McFarlane McFarlane had been treated in hospital for mental health reasons

"However, sadly nothing in either call between police and Ms Griffiths made an urgent police response imperative or could reasonably have predicted what was so swiftly to follow."

NHS East of England is conducting a separate inquiry into the case in connection with McFarlane's treatment by health professionals before the murder.

The BBC revealed in May 2009 that shortly before the attack McFarlane was treated at West Suffolk Hospital and considered for sectioning.

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