Angela Wrightson: Police took home 'laughing and joking' killers
Two teenage killers who murdered a woman in her home were given a lift home from the scene by police who failed to notice their blood-stained clothes.
The girls, aged 13 and 14 at the time, battered Angela Wrightson, 39, to death in Hartlepool in December 2014.
Det Ch Supt Peter McPhillips said they were "laughing and joking", so there was no reason for officers to check for signs of blood.
The pair were convicted on Tuesday.
When the girls, now aged 15, called police for a lift home, having earlier been reported missing, officers did not know Ms Wrightson had been murdered, Det Ch Supt McPhillips, of Cleveland Police, said.
He said they were known to police and were regarded as vulnerable.
'Wouldn't notice the blood'
"It was four o'clock on a December morning, so it was dark," he said.
"The officer picked them up, their demeanour was fine, they were laughing and joking.
"There would be no particular reason for him to check their clothing to see whether it was blood-stained hence, of course, he wouldn't notice the blood."
He said it was "easy with hindsight" to think officers should have noticed one girl had a cut eye and both had blood on them.
"But in the circumstances I think we thought - two vulnerable girls, we're picking them up and we're taking them home."
The girls went missing regularly and may have been known to the officer who picked them up, but Det Ch Supt McPhillips said he felt "certain that he would have checked their welfare".
He also said the force "did do quite a lot to try and help" Miss Wrightson, who was "well known to a range of services including mental health, social care and, obviously, the police".
A police community support officer had been allocated to work with her and visit her regularly.
Hartlepool Borough Council chief executive Gill Alexander said: "Incidents like this are extremely rare but we need to do everything possible to try to better understand what motivated the two children to behave as they did."