Police failed in murder case
12 September 2018, 06:13 | Updated: 12 September 2018, 06:42
Two police officers will be given further training following an investigation into how they handled complaints from a woman who was subsequently murdered by her jealous ex-boyfriend from Scotland.
Alice Ruggles, 24, had told Northumbria Police about unwanted contact from Trimaan "Harry" Dhillon, a Scotland-based soldier who made repeated, disturbing visits to her flat in Gateshead after they split.
He was jailed for life at Newcastle Crown Court in April 2017 after being convicted of stalking his former partner, breaking into her home and cutting her neck open from ear to ear.
After the trial, Northumbria Police conducted an internal review and identified potential misconduct by officers which was referred to the Independent Office of Police Conduct.
The watchdog found that a sergeant and a constable had a case to answer for misconduct and there was evidence of unsatisfactory performance by another constable.
Ms Ruggles had called police and asked for advice from a call handler at 12.40am on October 1 2016, when she reported seeing Dhillon outside her home and was told she could report this as harassment the next day.
The IOPC found details Ms Ruggles gave about her stalker knocking at her door and a text message confirming he had been outside her home were not recorded by the call-handler, who has since left the force.
A Pc visited her on October 2 for two hours and took a statement in which Ms Ruggles said Dhillon left her chocolates and flowers on her bedroom window ledge in the middle of the night and had left a voicemail saying he did not want to kill her.
Dhillon was issued with a police information notice (PIN) for harassment to warn him that he could be arrested if he contacted Ms Ruggles again.
It was arranged for his major at the Edinburgh barracks to issue the PIN, although national guidance was that this should be done by a police officer in person unless in exceptional circumstances.
Ms Ruggles contacted police again on October 7 after he sent her a letter and photos, and it was recorded as a non-emergency breach of a PIN.
She was asked if she wanted him arrested but she said she did not.
The IOPC said guidance states that the decision to arrest a suspect lies with the officer, and they should not ask victims this question.
She was murdered five days later and her body was found by her flatmate.
A sergeant and constable were dealt with via management action in the form of words of advice, and further training to develop their awareness when dealing with stalking and harassment.
IOPC regional director Miranda Biddle said: "Our thoughts have remained with Alice's family during our investigation.
"Their ongoing efforts to highlight the dangers of stalking, via the Alice Ruggles Trust, is testament to their strength and positivity in the face of such a tragic and needless loss."
Assistant Chief Constable Rachel Bacon said: "Since Alice's death it has been recognised nationally that changes need to be made in how police respond to reports of stalking and harassment to ensure officers understand the heightened risks associated with stalking behaviour.
"With the help of Alice's family, who I have to commend for their continuing dignity and determination, significant improvements have been made in the way we deal with these types of offences.
"Their support and input has been vital in developing training that is now being used by other police forces and partners and for that I can't thank them enough."
Her parents Clive Ruggles and Sue Hills said: "We have never wanted this to be turned into a blame game.
"What has to come out of this is that lessons are learned, procedures improved, and training implemented."