Rachael Slack inquest: Mother and son 'unlawfully killed'

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Media captionRachael Slack was expecting a second child at the time of her death

Police failings in part led to the killing of a mother and son by her ex-partner, an inquest jury has ruled.

Andrew Cairns, 44, stabbed Rachael Slack, 38, and their 23-month-old son Auden on 2 June 2010 at her home in Holbrook, Derbyshire.

The jury found police failure to impress on Ms Slack the danger she and Auden faced "more than minimally contributed" to their deaths.

Ms Slack and Auden were unlawfully killed and Cairns took his own life.

Coroner Dr Robert Hunter said he would be writing to the Home Secretary to raise issues over the powers police have to detain suspects in cases concerning violent or sexual incidents, national training standards in domestic violence for police, electronic document sharing and mutual disclosure of information.

Police had assessed Ms Slack to be at at risk but it emerged during the five-week inquest at Derbyshire Coroner's Court that they were unclear if she had been warned.

Image caption Robert Barlow said he needed to know Ms Slack and Auden were at risk

The inquest heard Andrew Cairns had a long history of mental health problems.

In the weeks running up to the attack he had been detained under the Mental Health Act, assessed and released.

'More vigilant'

The jury heard he had also been arrested for making threats to kill Ms Slack, and was later bailed.

They were also told that following his contact with Derbyshire Constabulary, Ms Slack and Auden were deemed as being at high risk of homicide but police officers failed to properly impart that to Ms Slack.

On the morning of 2 June, Cairns went to his GP and seemed agitated.

When he left the surgery, he went to Ms Slack's home. A neighbour reported hearing screams coming from the house.

Post-mortem examination results showed Ms Slack had been stabbed 32 times in the chest and back.

Cairns had 18 stab wounds to his abdomen and chest and the inquest heard Auden, who had been stabbed 16 times, died from multiple wounds to his chest and abdomen.

Ms Slack was pregnant at the time of her death and in a relationship with Robert Barlow.

Violence 'epidemic'

He said: "Knowing that Rachael was a high risk of homicide means that we could have adjusted our lives to be a lot more vigilant.

"I think it's a key point that we definitely needed to know. I do in the long term think it would have made a difference, without a shadow of a doubt."

Hayden and Melony Slack, Rachael Slack's brother and sister-in-law, said: "The space that has been left in our lives by the tragic loss of Rachael and Auden will never be filled and never should be.

"Rachael was a devoted mother, a beautiful and truly caring person with a positive outlook on life.

"We hope that the jury's findings that the police failings contributed to the deaths of Rachael and Auden, and the various reports to be made by the coroner, will ensure that lessons are learned that could protect the lives of other women and children threatened by domestic violence - a problem the coroner described as an 'epidemic'."

Care failure

In a statement Derbyshire Police Assistant Chief Constable Karl Smethem said: "I am confident that Derbyshire Constabulary's policies and procedures for the investigation of domestic violence incidents, and for the protection of victims, met national guidelines in 2010.

"From the evidence it is clear that Rachael's report of Andrew Cairns' verbal threat to kill was taken very seriously by the police.

"We were actively investigating the threat, with a view to charging him, and we did take steps to ensure that Rachael and Auden's home was secure."

In a statement, the family of Andrew Cairns said mental health services failed to keep proper records or co-ordinate his care.

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