The Metropolitan Police has admitted its response when murdered sisters Nicole Smallman and Bibaa Henry were reported missing “fell short” and “compounded the distress felt by their loved ones”.
Scotland Yard said it will apologise to the family of the two siblings, who were found stabbed to death in a park in Wembley, north London, in June last year. Danyal Hussein, 19, was convicted of their murder in July after a jury found him guilty of the savage attack.
The force said it agreed with the findings of a report by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) that found the level of service provided over the weekend when they went missing was below the standard that it should have been. Met Commissioner Cressida Dick conceded the response was “below the standard we should have achieved”.
It’s the latest in a string of controversies that has plagued the UK’s biggest police force in the aftermath of the death of Sarah Everard.
The Met said no misconduct was found with regards to an officer and two members of police staff but there will be action taken over their performance, which was found to be inadequate.
There was no suggestion racial bias played any part in how the missing persons reports were dealt with, it said.
Dick said: “My thoughts and deepest sympathies are with the family and friends of Nicole and Bibaa for their tragic losses.
“The way we responded to information that Nicole and Bibaa were missing that weekend was below the standard we should have achieved and compounded the distress felt by their loved ones.
“While we know that very sadly Nicola and Bibaa had been murdered in the early hours of Saturday June 6 2020, before they were reported missing, if we had responded better we may have saved their friends and family immeasurable pain.
“I am very sorry that the level of service we provided fell short. We have contacted the family to ask if they will allow me or, if they prefer, another senior officer to visit them at a time that is right to apologise in person.”
The IOPC investigation found that the inspector closed the police logs after receiving information about the sisters’ possible whereabouts from a family member, but that information was “inaccurately” recorded by a communications supervisor.
This meant that missing persons inquiries for both women were not progressed properly.
The inspector told the investigation that this had been one of “the most challenging shifts of his career” with 16 missing persons reports open and the North West Command Unit under capacity by almost 50% due to the ongoing pandemic.
The Met said following the investigation several members of staff must subsequently undertake “unsatisfactory performance procedures.”
The IOPC investigation had also considered whether the force’s response had been affected by the sisters’ ethnicity, the Met added.
“After a comprehensive examination of police records, no evidence was found of stereotyping or biased assumptions based on the sisters’ race or where they lived,” the it said.
“The IOPC also recommended we review the processes and separate computer systems used by different call handlers, and consider whether further training should be provided to ensure all fully understand how systems operate that they might not use as frequently.
“We have already addressed this recommendation by producing an enhanced training information pack for all call operators.”
In August, family and friends of the sisters staged at a vigil at the scene of the incident on what would have been Nicole’s 29th birthday.
Large crowds lit candles and laid flowers to honour all women lost to male violence.