Inquest Into Death Of Leamington Woman Critical Of Warwickshire Police Response To Distress Call

Family Devastated By Death And Hope Lessons Will Be Learned

02.06.2016

Dave Grimshaw, Press Officer | 0114 274 4397

The family of a woman who died after police failed to respond in time to a call from her saying she had been beaten say they hope lessons will be learned after an inquest heard evidence criticising the police force’s response to the incident.

On 25 October 2012 Luisa Mendes was found dead at a house in Leamington. The night before she died there was a ‘silent 999’ call from the house where Luisa had reported that one of two men in the house had beaten her. A police call handler subsequently called back and spoke to two men who denied there were any difficulties. During those conversations Luisa could be heard shouting that she was being beaten. The call handler reassured the men that they would be there within the hour and that they should call back if there were further problems, but no reassurance was given to Luisa.

A Domestic Homicide Review into her death identified significant missed opportunities by the police to intervene and potentially prevent the assault which caused her injuries.

Luisa’s brother, Vitor Mendes, has instructed specialist lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to investigate her death to help the family gain answers as to what happened and to find out if more could have been done to prevent the incident.

At an inquest into her death a Jury found that Luisa died from a ruptured spleen as a result of deliberate application of force from a third party after the calls from the police. They also found that the failure to upgrade the emergency call to ‘violent’, an inadequate handover procedure and the errors or omissions of supervision of the police control room also contributed.

An investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) and the Domestic Homicide Review into Luisa’s death have been critical of Warwickshire Police’s response to her emergency call.

Witnesses from the police control room during the inquest accepted that the call should have been categorised as ‘violent’ rather than ‘rowdy/nuisance’ and that in any event, because it was graded a ‘priority’, police resources should have been deployed to the property within one hour of the call. The inquest heard that the inspector and control room supervisor failed to notice that the priority call had not been responded to within the hour.

The Warwickshire Police Force Call Handling guidelines state that where there is a risk or is likely to be a risk of the use of violence or the immediate threat of violence, calls should graded as ‘emergency’ (requiring attendance within 10 minutes if urban or within 20 minutes if rural) rather than ‘priority’ (requiring attendance as soon as possible within one hour).

An Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) investigation into the death identified that three police staff had cases to answer for gross misconduct following both collective and individual failures. The evidence showed that there were police resources on 24 October 2012 to deploy to the incident and the IPCC report notes the lack of rationale as to why police resources were not dispatched. The report notes that Luisa’s previous involvement in incidents of nuisance or rowdy behaviour may have led to them prioritising other calls over this incident.

Nancy Collins, a specialist lawyer at Irwin Mitchell representing Luisa’s brother said:

Luisa’s brother, Vitor Mendes, said: “We were all devastated and heart-broken by my sister’s death. We just wanted to find out exactly what happened and why the police didn’t help her when she needed them most.”

Read more about Irwin Mitchell's expertise in representing families at inquests.