Essex: Murder victim ‘badly let down’ by police failings

A VULNERABLE woman was ‘badly let down’ by Essex Police in the days before her murder, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has found.

Human error, missed opportunities and individual mistakes all contributed to the force’s ‘serious failure’ to respond adequately to Maria Stubbings.

The 50-year-old was found dead under a pile of coats at her home in Pitfield, Chelmsford, on Friday, December 19, 2008.

Marc Chivers, 42, who had already served a 15-year jail term for killing a former girlfriend in Germany, was last December given a life sentence for Ms Stubbings’ murder.

The IPCC identified several failures by Essex Police in the days before Ms Stubbings was found.

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On December 11 Ms Stubbings had called Essex Police to report a burglary but the call-handler failed to take her address down properly. This meant officers were not alerted to Chivers’ history, which included a conviction for assaulting Ms Stubbings. It took officers two days to visit Ms Stubbings in relation to her original call.

Then, after senior officers ordered the case be invesitgated further, a female constable failed to attend the address, despite being asked to do so.

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The day before Ms Stubbings was discovered two officers had visited the home and spoke to Chivers, who the IPCC said had fobbed them off.

IPCC Commissioner Rachel Cerfontyne said: “They were far too easily persuaded by the account of a man they knew to be a convicted murderer that Maria had gone to stay with friends – far more probing questions of Chivers should have been asked.”

“This is without doubt one of the most disturbing cases I have personally overseen in my time as IPCC commissioner.

“Maria Stubbings was badly let down by Essex Police and, in my view, by a serious gap in the law.

“In my opinion, Maria’s death was both predictable and preventable.

“With no appropriate restrictions able to be in place after convicted murderer Marc Chivers’ return to the UK, any woman who entered a relationship with him would have been in grave danger.

Ms Stubbings’ brother, Manuel Fernandez, speaking to a national broadcaster, said: “Unfortunately she was terribly let down. To me it’s astounding. There were too many clues, too much knowledge of a convicted murderer. She was a very high-risk person and she should have been awarded the protection that everybody in the public deserves.”

Derek Benson, assistant chief constable of Essex Police, said: “On behalf of Essex Police I wish to express again my condolences to the family and friends of Maria Stubbings. I wrote in August to members of the family to apologise personally for the failings of the force in this instance.

“The IPCC Report is clear that a combination of factors, including gaps in the law, human error, missed opportunities and individual failures led to an inadequate response by Essex Police. Where those missed opportunities and failures can be addressed, we will do so. Any report of domestic abuse is taken very seriously, and a full and thorough investigation should always be carried out.

“Officers identified in the report as having failed in their duties will be dealt with in accordance with police misconduct and unsatisfactory performance procedures.”

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