Jessica Patel murder: Middlesbrough review finds signs of abuse

Jessica Patel Image copyright Family photo
Image caption Jessica Patel was murdered at her home in Middlesbrough in May 2018

Women seeking medical help for anxiety should be asked if they are suffering domestic abuse, an inquiry into the murder of a pharmacist has found.

Mitesh Patel strangled his wife Jessica in a staged break-in at their home in Middlesbrough in May 2018 as part of a plot to move abroad with his boyfriend.

A domestic homicide review found the murder could not have been predicted.

But there are lessons to be learned about the awareness of warning signs of domestic abuse.

The review, carried out by Middlesbrough Community Safety Partnership, said there were signs Mrs Patel, 34, was being domestically abused by her husband during their nine-year marriage.

Image copyright Cleveland Police
Image caption Mitesh Patel must serve a minimum of 30 years in jail

The panel said individual family, friends and colleagues had pieces of information that on their own "may not have seemed significant or alerted them of concerns", but when put together would have shown the abuse she suffered.

Incidents included:

  • Patel refusing to let his wife return home to visit her dying grandfather
  • Patel shouting at his wife in front of colleagues and customers at the Roman Road Pharmacy they ran together
  • Patel moving his wife to Middlesbrough from the Halifax area which her family said was to isolate her
  • Patel throwing a phone at her injuring her leg

Mrs Patel sought help from a GP for anxiety but there was "no evidence" she was explicitly asked about domestic abuse, the panel said.

"Research suggests that women experiencing domestic abuse are more likely to experience a mental health problem, while women with mental health problems are more likely to be domestically abused," the review said.

"In cases of mental health problems, health professionals should always consider asking a direct question of the patient."

'Act of evil'

The panel's report said Ms Patel was getting fertility treatment as she desperately wanted to be a mother, but unbeknown to her Patel was taking drugs to stifle his sperm count.

He had a series of gay affairs and was planning to move to Australia to be with a lover, the report said.

The panel also said the murder should be considered an honour killing as the "only way [Mitesh Patel] may have felt able to leave the marriage with honour was by killing Jessica".

In a statement, Mrs Patel's family said they supported the "extremely painful" review to "provide a voice for her".

"So that this act of evil is not repeated, we encourage everyone to open their eyes, to ask questions and never assume everything is ok," they said.

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