Murdered nurse wasn't told of risk
A nurse who was brutally murdered by her jealous ex-boyfriend was not told he had threatened to kill another ex two years before with arson attacks on her car and home, a damning report has found.
Katie Cullen, 34, was stabbed 130 times in the head by Iranian-born asylum-seeker Iman Saeed Ghaefelipour, 28, who also gouged out one of her eyes in the murder in October 2009.
Ms Cullen, who first met her killer at a salsa class, had complained to police after he threatened to kill her when she broke off the relationship.
But she was never warned that in 2007 he had threatened to kill another ex-girlfriend who broke off with him, with "little doubt" he was responsible for arson attacks on her car and home.
It led to "false reassurance" and "increased vulnerability" for Miss Cullen, an Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) report out today found.
Ghaefelipour was jailed for life, with a minimum term of 23 years before parole for the murder of Miss Cullen, who worked as a senior sister in cardiology at the Liverpool Heart and Chester Hospital and lived in Stockport, Greater Manchester.
Today her family said they are "utterly appalled" at the way Greater Manchester Police (GMP) dealt with the case.
The IPCC report found a "catalogue of inaction and missed opportunities" and that Miss Cullen was "badly let down" by police officers who handled her complaint about Ghaefelipour.
Her mother Diane Cullen said: "We are distraught at what happened to Katie and utterly appalled at the lack of care she received at the hands of GMP when she reported the threat to kill her and their decision to keep vital information from her.
"It is inconceivable to us that the two police officers concerned should protect her assailant, a man with a reported history of violence, than protect a vulnerable girl who lived on her own and who turned to them for help.
"Unbelievably, they actively encouraged him to go round to her house to repay an outstanding debt.
"But even worse, by withholding such information from Katie, they denied her the opportunity to protect herself. She returned to her own home alone and vulnerable, ignorant of the dangerous situation she was in.
"Since Katie's murder we have been plunged into unimaginable torture.
"There isn't a day goes by I don't think about her and miss her. She meant the world to me and my family. We all adored her and without her our lives can never be the same."
IPCC deputy chair Rachel Cerfontyne said: "Katie Cullen was brutally murdered. Her family have been devastated by their loss and they are still struggling to come to terms with that fact that not only did the police fail to help her, their actions may have given her false reassurance and, in doing so, increased her vulnerability.
"In my view, Katie was badly let down by Greater Manchester Police.
"Our investigation has exposed a catalogue of inaction and missed opportunities. Katie and her family deserved better."
Miss Cullen's mutilated body was found in a pool of blood at her home in Stockport on October 22 2009.
Her right eye was missing, later found dumped in a plastic bag, along with the knife that was used to kill her.
Pizza delivery worker Ghaefelipour was sentenced to life in prison at Manchester Crown Court in April 2010.
The IPCC report said that in August 2007 an ex-girlfriend of Ghaefelipour called police to report he was harassing her and had made threats to kill her.
Shortly afterwards, two serious arson attacks were made on her car and home.
These crimes were investigated by the police but the IPCC said the investigations were "inadequate" and no charges were brought, although the police had little doubt that Ghaefelipour was responsible for both attacks.
Miss Cullen began a six-month relationship with Ghaefelipour in March 2008.
During that time she reported to the police that Ghaefelipour had stolen £3,000 from her bank account, but she withdrew this allegation in September 2008 as it appeared she hoped to recover the money through direct agreement with him.
But in May 2009 she began a new relationship and in June, she and her boyfriend encountered Ghaefelipour in a McDonald's restaurant where he attacked his ex and threatened to kill them both.
She went to police and though the incident was graded a "priority", requiring a response within the hour, follow-up action was delayed 26 times, Miss Cullen was "passed from pillar to post" and she was not seen by police until June 22, the IPCC report found.
Having checked the Police National Computer, one of the officers advised Miss Cullen that there were no "warning" markers against Ghaefelipour on the system.
Later the officers checked the internal intelligence system and discovered Ghaefelipour's history with the previous ex-girlfriend.
But they decided not to contact Miss Cullen and pass on the information because, the report said, "they were not required to do so by policy or procedure" because he had not actually been charged or convicted of the suspected offences.
A referral to GMP's domestic violence unit resulted in a standard letter and information booklet being sent to Miss Cullen.
But due to the misspelling of her first name and Ghaefelipour's surname, no trace of either was found on the intelligence system, so no connection was made by the unit with Ghaefelipour's history.
The IPCC report said that had the earlier arson offences been adequately investigated, it is possible that he would have been convicted and not at liberty to murder Miss Cullen.
And if police had not withheld information about her killer it would have "enabled her to better understand the dangerous situation she was in", the IPCC said.
In fact police agreed to Miss Cullen's request to contact Ghaefelipour and ask him to deliver money he owed her when she was not at home, with such contact between the two "entirely inappropriate".
The report said the areas of poor performance and failure to take proactive steps to protect Miss Cullen mirror some of the experiences of other cases involving domestic abuse the IPCC has investigated both in GMP and nationally.
The IPCC report concluded these collective failures on the part of individuals in GMP do not amount to misconduct but rather to poor performance on the part of those individuals.
GMP has told the IPCC it has learned lessons and has improved working practice across the force.
But a report by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) into domestic abuse earlier this year identified GMP as one of the four forces giving cause for very serious concern, with "immediate remedial action" required to protect victims.
Ms Cullen's father, Peter Cullen, was scathing of both the police and IPCC report, saying it amounted to a "cover-up" and the officers found wanting should face misconduct charges.
Mr Cullen, who no longer lives in the UK, said he wanted to gather his thoughts before responding fully to the report findings.
Detective Chief Superintendent Paul Rumney, head of the Professional Standards Branch of GMP, said: "The investigation report by the IPCC into the conduct of Greater Manchester Police officers found no evidence of misconduct and unusually made no recommendations for learning.
"GMP felt that this was not an acceptable position and that it was necessary to outline to the IPCC that we recognised that the service provided to Katherine should have been better in 2008 prior to her murder in 2009.
"In particular GMP recognises and accepts the comments made by the IPCC that the investigations into allegations of arson in 2007 involving a previous partner of Imam Ghafelipour prior to his relationship with Katherine were insufficient in depth and lacked the rigour they deserved.
"In addition, that despite officers arresting Ghafelipour, interviewing him and submitting an advice file to CPS, they lacked the investigative experience to undertake such investigations.
"The IPCC accept in their report that the officers provided a reasonable rationale for not making disclosures to Katherine about Ghafelipour's previous relationship from 2007.
"Over the last five years GMP have implemented a number of initiatives aimed at protecting victims from domestic abuse."