Anne-Marie Birch was found dead in a field near her home in Kent in 2013, following a prolonged campaign of harassment by her estranged husband. Two women a week are killed by a current or former partner in the UK
7 APRIL 2016 | BY Siobhan Fenton FOR THE Independent
A woman who was murdered by her estranged husband had reported his threatening behaviour to the police repeatedly but had not been taken seriously, an investigation has revealed.
Anne-Marie Birch, 47, was found dead in a field near her home in Kent in 2013 following a prolonged campaign of harassment by her estranged husband Lee Birch. He was jailed for life for her murder.
An investigation into the circumstances surrounding her death and how authorities responded to a number of cries for help discovered a series of failings by police. The Independent Police Complaints Commission found that Mrs Birch had contacted police on nine separate occasions in the months prior to her death but that Kent Police did not deal with her complaints appropriately.
Calls were not correctly logged and some staff lacked basic awareness of non-molestation orders which are often used in domestic abuse cases and which Mrs Birch had obtained just seven weeks prior to her death.
On the morning of the day she died, Mrs Birch found her estranged husband hiding in her garden and contacted the police. The call was handled by a trainee call handler and was not properly logged.
Officers who she spoke to on other occasions failed to identify and investigate numerous offences which Mr Birch committed, including death threats and other forms of serious harassment. Four members of Kent Police staff were interviewed under notice as part of the investigation, including a control room team leader, a supervisor and two call handlers. The IPCC found that none of them had a case to answer for misconduct.
IPCC Commissioner Mary Cunneenn said of the report’s findings: “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”, she added.
A spokesperson for 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 there were steps we could have taken to improve the service Anne-Marie received when she had concerns about her estranged husband’s behaviour.”
An estimated 1.4 million women and 700,000 men suffer domestic violence abuse every year in the UK. On average, two women a week are killed by male current or former partners.