Kent

Murdered wife Anne-Marie Birch warned police about husband

Anne-Marie Birch Image copyright Kent Police
Image caption Anne-Marie Birch suffered multiple fractures and was strangled

A woman who was murdered by her estranged husband alerted Kent Police about his behaviour nine times in the months before her death.

Lee Birch, 57, previously of Westgate-on-Sea, was jailed for a minimum of 25 years for strangling Anne-Marie Birch, 45, in 2013.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) found several of the calls could have been "better handled".

Kent Police said it recognised that it should have "offered a better service".

The IPCC report revealed she called Kent Police hours before she was killed to report that her husband of 17 years was hiding in her back garden, but the call was not properly logged by a trainee call handler.

'Harassment and threats'

Later that day he attacked her while she was out walking dogs at Ramsgate harbour and strangled her to death.

The report found officers "failed to identify or investigate potential offences" committed by Birch including "harassment and making threats to kill" before she obtained a non-molestation order (NMO), which aims to protect victims of domestic violent from abuse.

Image copyright Kent Police
Image caption Lee Birch killed his wife while she was walking dogs

It also said there was a lack of knowledge among some staff about NMOs.

Shortly after she obtained an NMO, Birch posted a threatening note through her door that was written on his copy of the order but officers told Mrs Birch they could not take action until notification of the NMO had appeared on their computer system.

'Disappointing reading'

The IPCC said eight officers and three call centre workers are to receive "specific learning points" so they do not make the same mistakes again.

In a statement, Kent Police offered its sympathies to Mrs Birch's family and said the report made for "disappointing reading".

"As soon as it became clear there were areas needing improvement, those improvements were made and they have been in place for a significant period of time.

While Kent Police recognises it could have offered a better service to Anne-Marie, it became clear in our investigation that her estranged husband had a very determined and clear intention to do her serious harm."

Maidstone Crown Court was told in April 2014 Mrs Birch had been stalked and harassed by her husband in the weeks before she died.

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