Shana Grice was 19 years old when she went to the police and told them she was being stalked by a man named Michael Lane.
Shana had ended a brief romance between the two, and Lane couldn’t accept the break-up. So he terrorised her.
He had stolen a key to her house and broken in in the middle of the night. She heard an intruder, and she hid. Then, she reported the incident to the police.
A few months later, he chased her down the street she lived on and she went to the police again. In the six months between February and August of 2016, she complained to the police again and again and again. They ignored her.
“The idea that women cannot be threatened by men they are intimate with is not – and has never been – even remotely true.”
At the time, the police said a history of “personal” messages between the two found on Grice’s phone meant that she was lying about him harassing her.
She complained again. There were no consequences – at least for Lane. He was arrested for assault but never charged.
But Grice’s fate is a different story. She – the victim – was fined £90 for wasting police time.
Not long after she paid the fine, Lane snuck into her house and killed her with a knife he found in her kitchen. He is now serving a 25-year prison sentence for her murder.
Trevor Godfrey, one of the officers involved in ignoring, and then criminally punishing, Grice, answered questions from a misconduct panel this week. He was wholly unrepentant. As someone who has been writing about violence against women for the better part of a decade, this shouldn’t surprise me, but somehow it still does, every single time.
At first glance, this looks like another heartbreaking example of police failing to take violence against women seriously. But today’s testimony shows us it’s far, far worse than that. Godfrey didn’t just dismiss Grice; he treated her with a degree of contempt and misogyny that ought to be reserved for the villains of our worst nightmares.
He started by telling the misconduct panel that he stands by his decision to punish Grice.
“She did waste my time,” he said.
But it got worse. When pushed, Godfrey laid bare a harrowing array of assumptions about women who are victims of violence at the hands of their intimate partners.
Assumptions which have no basis in fact and are fuelled by prejudice. Assumptions which are, quite literally, fatal.
Godfrey said he immediately dismissed Grice’s complaints because she had previously been in a sexual relationship with him and did not immediately disclose that fact.
“She lied to police three times,” Godfrey said, referring to her not telling him about their brief relationship.“It was only right I advised her she cannot keep lying in police statements and getting people arrested for it.”
Let’s just pause on that for a moment. Godfrey stood in front of a panel this week and said it was “only right” that he punish Grice because people were getting – wrongfully, is the implication – arrested based on her police reports.
The man who was arrested based on Grice’s “false” complaints is now in jail for her murder.
Then Godfrey told the misconduct panel about Grice’s text message exchanges with her killer, saying he couldn’t have been threatening her given their closeness.
“She would be signing her texts (to Lane) with five kisses. This is not harassment. It was a smokescreen to disguise her affair,” he said.
So here we are: a nineteen-year-old killed in the night, a man in prison for her murder, and a police officer who still clings to the fantasy that women lie about abuse to hide the details of their sex lives.
Again, I have made a career out of writing about crimes like this one, but for the first time, I almost feel as though I have no words.
Godfrey’s reprehensible statements are, of course, based on pure fiction. The idea that women cannot be threatened by men they are intimate with is not – and has never been – even remotely true. In fact, the truth is precisely the opposite: the majority of women murdered in the UK are killed by men they know, and the majority of those are partners or former partners.
One in five of those murdered women had gone to police at least once about their killer before he committed his final, fatal act.
But what’s worse is that these figures are well known. The police know them. Godfrey knows them. He knows his notion that Grice couldn’t have been hurt by Lane because she had dated him was a fantasy. He knows the idea that this situation is uncommon is fiction. But for some reason, we keep hearing the same justifications of male violence from those in positions of power. It’s the only way to continue blaming women for the violence committed against them.
I could dedicate many thousands of words to explaining just how common it is for men to hurt and kill the women in their lives. I could spend hours writing the truth of it. But there’s no point; we all know the truth of it already. The problem is that we keep spouting the lie anyway.
This fiction, that women lie about abuse, that they invent stories about men they know hurting them, that kisses in a text message somehow erase the possibility of violence, is deeply rooted in the fundamentally misogynistic belief that women deserve violence. That they ask for it.
Godfrey ignored Grice’s pleas for help. He fined her for wasting his time. And he told a panel of investigators that he was right to do so. Now, a teenage girl lies dead, her family are in mourning, and her killer sits in jail, found guilty of her murder beyond a reasonable doubt.
Lucia Osborne-Crowley is a freelance journalist