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Woman murdered by husband repeatedly told police of her concerns about him

Published 07/04/2016

The IPCC said Kent Police could have handled several of Anne-Marie Birch's calls better
The IPCC said Kent Police could have handled several of Anne-Marie Birch's calls better

A woman killed by her estranged husband had repeatedly reported concerns about his behaviour to police, an investigation revealed.

Anne-Marie Birch, 47, was strangled in a field near her home in Ramsgate, Kent, in November 2013 after a relentless campaign of harassment by Lee Birch. He was later jailed for life for murder.

Mrs Birch contacted police on nine separate occasions in the months leading up to her death, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) disclosed.

The watchdog concluded that Kent Police could have handled several of her calls better.

Problems cited included incorrect logging of calls and a lack of awareness among some staff about non-molestation orders (NMOs).

Mrs Birch, who ran a dog-walking business, obtained an NMO against her husband less than seven weeks before her death.

Officers who spoke to the victim before she obtained the order may have failed to identify or investigate potential offences committed by her husband, including harassment and making threats to kill, the probe found.

On the morning of her death, Mrs Birch called police to report her husband had been hiding in her back garden.

The IPCC concluded the call was answered by a trainee call handler and had not been properly logged.

IPCC commissioner Mary Cunneen said: "Ultimately it is Lee Birch who takes full responsibility for the campaign of harassment against Anne-Marie which culminated in her tragic death.

"Our investigation found that Kent Police could have performed better when Anne-Marie called them for help and we have made 12 recommendations to the force highlighting important areas where its practices can be improved.

"We have also agreed with Kent Police that eight individual officers and three call centre workers should receive specific learning points so the mistakes made in this case are not repeated in the future."

During the investigation, four members of Kent Police staff - a control room team leader, a supervisor and two call handlers - were interviewed under notice.

None had a case to answer for misconduct, the IPCC found.

Kent Police said: " The IPCC report into how Kent Police handled certain aspects of Anne-Marie Birch's contact with us prior to the day of her murder makes for disappointing reading.

"We aim to put victims at the heart of everything we do and clearly there were steps we could have taken to improve the service Anne-Marie received when she had concerns about her estranged husband's behaviour.

"As soon as it became clear there were areas needing improvement, those improvements were made and they have been in place for a significant period of time.

"While Kent Police recognises it could have offered a better service to Anne-Marie, it became clear in our investigation that her estranged husband had a very determined and clear intention to do her serious harm.

"Our sympathies remain with her family and those who were close to her."

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