Bury St Edmunds: Police should have sent officer to house of mum murdered with bolt gun

POLICE who took a call from a worried mother just hours before she was brutally murdered should have sent an officer at “earliest available opportunity”.

That’s the finding of the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) which has investigated contact between Mary Griffiths and Suffolk police in the lead up to her murder in Bury St Edmunds.

John McFarlane is serving 30 years for the murder in May 2009 of 38-year-old fitness instructor Mary Griffiths at her home in Bullrush Crescent, Bury St Edmunds.

At 6pm on the evening of the murder, Ms Griffiths made a non-emergency call to Suffolk Constabulary to report that McFarlane was harassing her.

Control centre staff graded her call as “as requiring a non-urgent response” and at about 9.45pm police called her back and, with her agreement, arranged to visit her the next day.

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However, at 2.45am the following morning, McFarlane broke into her home and shot her with a bolt gun.

IPCC Commissioner Rachel Cerfontyne, said: “This was a grotesque crime, and I would again send my condolences to Mary’s family and friends for whom no official findings can compensate for their devastating loss.

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“The investigation found that based on the evidence gathered and existing force policies and guidance, while the call from Ms Griffiths was graded correctly, the police should have dispatched an officer to visit her home at the earliest available opportunity on the evening of 5 May, rather than wait until the following day.

“Having studied the operational demands on police resources in the area that evening, we have determined it would have been possible for an officer to attend.

“However, sadly nothing in either call between police and Ms Griffiths made an urgent police response imperative or could reasonably have predicted what was so swiftly to follow.

“And it cannot be said that the attendance of a police officer that evening would have prevented Mr McFarlane committing the horrific crime he did.”

Police staff involved in dealing with Ms Griffiths’ call have “received words of advice from their supervisors” and extra training has been provided to all control room staff and supervisors.

Responding to the IPCC findings, Chief Superintendent Stewart Gull said: “All officers and police staff at Suffolk Constabulary have been keen to establish whether there were any lessons to be learnt from this incident.

“Prior to the completion of the IPCC investigation, Suffolk Constabulary took steps to make changes to the policies, procedures and training provision around the dealing of harassment calls.

“I would like to reassure people in Suffolk that all the recommendations have been taken on board and are being acted upon.

“We receive a number of calls reporting harassment on a daily basis - each one is carefully and individually assessed to ensure an appropriate police response.”

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