Case of Matthew Goddard's widow given blood-stained evidence by PSNI to be re-examined by Ombudsman
The Police Ombudsman is to re-examine a case in which the widow of a murdered man had items which were still covered in her dead husband's blood returned to her.
Initially, the Ombudsman found no fault with the PSNI following a complaint by Maureen Goddard, whose husband Matthew was brutally bludgeoned to death in east Belfast three years ago.
Remarkably, however, another horrendously blood-stained item - a blanket - was then handed over to Mrs Goddard after the Ombudsman had formally dismissed her initial complaint.
The Zimbabwe-born mother-of-two said her life has been a living hell over the last three years since her 41-year-old husband's lifeless body was discovered wrapped in a curtain at the bottom of the stairs at his Chobham Street home on Christmas Eve 2014.
Brothers William and James Turner were each sentenced to a minimum of 17 years in jail for what the judge described as a "sustained, pitiless and horrifically savage attack" on their victim.
They punched, kicked and battered Maureen's late husband with an electric guitar before stamping on his head in an attack provoked by remarks allegedly made by Mr Goddard about the younger brother James, who recently had his sentence reduced by two years by the Court of Appeal.
The guitar, and a television set, were among the blood-stained items offered to Mrs Goddard last September when officers visited her home, despite her specific request not to be given back the murder weapon.
East Belfast MP Gavin Robinson, who has been closely monitoring developments, told the Belfast Telegraph that "the tragedy of this case" has been exacerbated by how Mrs Goddard has been treated.
"The fact that the Ombudsman is having to re-examine this complaint displays yet another instance of disappointing care and service for Mrs Goddard throughout this difficult time," he said.
"I'm glad they are taking the rather unusual step of re-examining the complaint, however, and trust she will finally get the acceptance of failings and the apologies she deserves."
Mrs Goddard said the blanket was returned because the police believed it might have had sentimental value for her.
"They warned me there were drops of blood on it, but I wasn't expecting it to be absolutely saturated," she said.
"I'm pleased they're going to look at my case again because of the way I've been treated from the beginning.
"If it hadn't been for the Belfast Telegraph, Gavin Robinson and Victim Support I'd have had to accept the original ruling, rather than continue to fight."
The 46-year-old added: "The police need to apologise. Nobody should be treated like that. The PSNI as a whole has failed me in how this issue was handled."
A spokesman for the Police Ombudsman confirmed it would be re-examining aspects of Maureen's previous complaint in light of fresh information, and would be making inquiries into new issues raised.
"We met Mrs Goddard to discuss the case and she has provided us with some additional information which we are now in the process of investigating," the spokesman said.
Earlier this year the Ombudsman, dismissing all nine of Mrs Goddard's complaints about how her case was handled, found no fault with the officers involved.
The widow was given the blanket just one day after James Turner, one of the two men convicted of her husband's murder, had his prison sentence reduced by two years by the Court of Appeal.
She said: "Getting it back in that state caused me additional distress. I was still aggrieved at being offered the guitar and having the television returned to me covered in Matt's blood."
Mr Robinson, meanwhile, said there had been a "catalogue of errors and failures" surrounding the police handling of the case, compounded by the findings of the Police Ombudsman's report.
He said that the Ombudsman "has failed Mrs Goddard entirely" and reiterated his call for a "Police Service apology".
The DUP MP was at a meeting with Mrs Goddard and the Ombudsman last week when it was decided that the case was to be re-examined.
While accepting that nothing will bring back her husband, Mrs Goddard added: "I can't help thinking that if Matt was the son of a prominent member of the community, none of this would have happened."