Beds, Herts & Bucks

Lee Guntrip case: Police knew murdered Sarah Nash was at 'high risk'

Sarah Nash Image copyright Hertfordshire Police
Image caption Sarah Nash said her former partner had breached the conditions of his bail

A woman killed by a violent ex-partner was failed by officers who knew she was a "high-risk victim", a watchdog found.

Lee Guntrip, 25, strangled Sarah Nash the day after being bailed by police investigating domestic abuse allegations against him.

He had been ordered to stay away from her, but was bailed to his home just eight doors away from Ms Nash, 37.

Hertfordshire Police said it had overhauled its domestic abuse unit in the wake of the findings.

The pair were found dead at a property in Highfield Road, Berkhamsted, on 23 June 2016.

The day before, convicted domestic abuser Guntrip had been re-bailed by police investigating further assaults on Ms Nash, a mother of two.

He had first been arrested on 4 June and two days later allegedly broke his bail conditions not to approach her but the terms were not altered by police.

Image copyright South Beds News Agency
Image caption Lee Guntrip strangled former partner Sarah Nash then killed himself

Sarah Green, regional director of the Independent Office for Police Conduct, said: "Investigating this tragic incident, we found evidence the police were aware of the abusive relationship, in which Ms Nash was a high risk victim."

Three officers had failed to investigate the attacks "to an acceptable standard", she said.

Ensuring victims had confidence to seek police help and then received "proper protection" was a "vital step" to reducing domestic violence deaths, added Ms Green.

History of abuse

Police knew of Guntrip's history of abuse towards Ms Nash, following his conviction for battery and actual bodily harm in January 2016.

He was given a community order and told to go on a rehabilitation course.

Image copyright South Beds News Agency
Image caption Hertfordshire police referred itself to the watchdog following the two deaths

Three officers faced misconduct hearings in May 2018, with one given management advice and another a written warning. The third was cleared.

Hertfordshire police had accepted six of the seven recommendations made by the IOPC, and had improved training, information-sharing and how risk assessments were made and recorded.

A force spokesman said domestic abuse team resources had increased "significantly".

Inquests held in March concluded Guntrip killed himself, and Ms Nash was unlawfully killed.

The conclusion added her death was "contributed to by the lack of communication between all parties", particularly related to the breach of Guntrip's bail conditions.

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