Police apologise for failing murdered Cardiff mother
- 26 July 2010
- From the section South East Wales
Two police forces in Wales have apologised for human errors in the minutes before a mother was fatally stabbed.
Joanna Michael, 25, dialled 999 twice before her murder by ex-boyfriend Cyron Williams in Cardiff in August 2009 but police were slow to respond.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) said South Wales Police and Gwent Police had failed her.
Senior officers at both forces issued a statement apologising for the blunders.
In its report the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) concluded that Ms Michael "was failed by Gwent Police, South Wales Police and the 999 system itself".
The mother-of-two was murdered in the early hours of 5 August last year when Williams broke into her home and found her with another man.
She made two potentially life-saving 999 calls but police took a total of 22 minutes to respond and did not arrive until after she had been fatally stabbed.
Two police call handlers, one at Gwent Police and one at South Wales Police, face disciplinary action following the inquiry.
In a joint statement Gwent Police and South Wales Police said they were working closely together to address the issues set out in the IPCC's report.
They acknowledged that the service given to Ms Michael was not reflective of what the public should expect from the police.
Deputy Chief Constable of Gwent Police Carmel Napier said in a separate statement: "It's our job to protect and help vulnerable members of the public and we are sorry that we failed to do that for Joanna.
"There are no excuses - we simply did not respond as we should have."
Nick Croft, Assistant Chief Constable of South Wales Police, added: "I regret very much the way South Wales Police dealt with the call and information that was passed on by Gwent Police.
"I agree with the commissioner that the lessons learned during the investigation and his recommendations should be shared.
"South Wales Police has fully accepted the recommendations and has acted upon them.
"Clearly, Joanna's calls to the police did not result in her getting the required response and our service that night fell below the standards I would expect from my staff."
The report found Ms Michael's panicked mobile phone calls, and those of anxious neighbours, were unaccountably mis-directed to Gwent Police Force by a phone mast.
Then critical minutes were lost as the details were passed to South Wales Police.
The problem was compounded by the fact the handler of the first call did not take full details.
The mix-up meant the full urgency of Ms Michael's situation was missed by South Wales Police which failed to send officers to the scene immediately.
It was only when a terrified Ms Michael phoned a second time, and her call was again mis-routed to Gwent Police, that officers were sent to her home.
In the attack Ms Michael suffered 72 separate wounds at the hands of Williams.
He was jailed for life, with a recommendation that he serve 20 years, after admitting murder at Cardiff crown court in March.
The IPCC report stated: "The IPCC cannot say that an earlier response would have saved Joanna's life.
"For all we know if the police had attended Joanna's house at 2.35am Williams may have just waited until the officers had left before resuming his murderous intentions.
"What we can say for certain is that more could and should have been done for Joanna, who was denied the opportunity for a prompt response which may have led to a different outcome."