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Police probed after investigation into brutal murder
9:37am Friday 13th September 2013 in News
POLICE, the NHS and charities have been ordered to learn from a catalogue of missed opportunities and mistakes that may have prevented the brutal murder of a young Southampton woman.
Many organisations involved in the lives of Anita Bawtree and her boyfriend Steven Waters, who later stabbed her to death, failed to spot signs of domestic violence – and those that did failed to raise the alarm.
That was the finding of an independent review following the murder of the 34-year-old who suffered 15 knife injuries including one through her heart when Waters, a former soldier, carried out the killing in a drug-induced frenzy in April 2011.
The Domestic Homicide Review, the first of its kind in Southampton, was asked for by Hampshire police following Ms Bawtree’s murder which took place in the early hours of the morning at her flat in Paynes Road, Freemantle, and left police negotiators in a tense threehour stand-off with 55-yearold Waters.
Collated by the Southampton Safe City Partnership, the report reached back to 2004 when the pair are known to have been in a relationship.
Ms Bawtree was known to multiple organisations because she was a schizophrenic while Waters was a known alcoholic and drug user who was treated for depression repeatedly.
Central to the findings were how seven key agencies and charities – covering a range of health aspects as well as housing and police – all interacted with the pair, but information was not shared that would have sounded alarm bells.
Indications Ms Bawtree was being subjected to such abuse, including occasions when she spoke of being scared of Water’s anger when he was drunk and her inability to say no to him, were not acted upon.
Southern NHS Trust staff did spot signs of domestic violence but they were not trained and did not raise the issue with other specialist agencies.
Hampshire police also came under fire for their handling of a 999 call from Waters when he confessed to killing the only person he had ever loved – which has since seen three members of staff disciplined.
Staff in the police control room, who had taken repeated abusive calls from him earlier in the evening when he claimed to have uncovered a drugs ring, decided not to deploy officers to the scene.
Waters made a second 999 call repeating the fact he had carried out a murder – but it was only graded as a category 2 call. It was eventually taken seriously when neighbours, hearing Waters shouting, began calling 999.
In total the report made 28 recommendations but concluded it was “impossible to say” whether Ms Bawtree’s death could have been predicted or prevented.
Waters is now serving a life sentence for murder following conviction at Winchester Crown Court last year.
FOUR police staff who answered 999 calls from Waters had a case to answer for misconduct, the independent body charged with regulating the force said today.
The matter was referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission in the days after the murder of Ms Bawtree and an investigation was launched.
Three of them faced disciplinary action by Hampshire police chiefs resulting in two written warnings and one receiving management advice.
A fourth person quit the job before any sanctions could be brought.
A spokesman for the IPCC said: “The investigation concluded four Hampshire Constabulary control room staff, based at Netley, failed to follow procedures by incorrectly grading the emergency calls and not recognising the gravity of the situation.”
It added that the force had been given recommendations around how to deal with callers with mental health issues in the future.
Assistant Chief Constable, Laura Nicholson, from Hampshire Constabulary said: “The DHR has concluded that although Anita’s death may not have been able to be predicted or prevented, there were areas in which we needed to improve and that, with hindsight, there were things
we could have done better.
“The force was already in the process of reviewing its processes for dealing with callers with mental health problems when Anita was murdered. Clearly after her death we prioritised this area of work to ensure all our call takers would be better prepared in future to manage calls from people with mental illness.
“In addition to improving our call handling processes, we have written more thorough, practical guidance for officers dealing with suspects with mental health issues to try to ensure these people are appropriately dealt with and not dismissed.
“We have implemented the recommendations made in the DHR and have taken on board the wider findings of the review.”
The Agencies Involved
• The Society of St James – provides supported housing to people affected by mental health and substance misuse issues
• Options – provides counselling and support to people with substance misuse issues to support them to live free of substances
• NHS Southampton – provide GP services in the city
• Southampton University Hospitals Trust (SUHT) – provide the Emergency Department and
inpatient Hospital services in the city
• Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust – provide the secondary care mental health services in the city
• Sovereign Housing – a local housing association, owners of the flat where the homicide occurred
• Hampshire Constabulary – provides the police service for Hampshire and Isle of Wight
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