Family plea for daughter death inquiry

Katie Wilding Image copyright Family photo
Image caption Katie Wilding died from a drug overdose in her flat in 2016

The family of a woman who died of an overdose along with her violent ex-partner are calling for an inquiry into how her case was handled.

Katie Wilding and Mitchell Richardson died in 2016. He was awaiting sentencing for beating her and breaking his bail conditions to contact her.

Home Office guidance says domestic homicide reviews should follow deaths where abuse appears to be a factor.

But Torbay Community Partnership says the criteria has not been met.

When Ms Wilding had first moved in to Richardson's Paignton flat, her family had started hearing "reports of abuse right away", her mother, Julie Aunger, told the BBC's Victoria Derbyshire programme.

"Katie gave up work because he would go mad if she left the flat," she said.

"He had control over her - he stopped her seeing friends and family. He controlled her financially."

A month before their deaths, Richardson pleaded guilty to two counts of assault by beating, criminal damage and resisting arrest.

Image copyright Family photo
Image caption Katie Wilding had told police she was in fear for her life

By then, Ms Wilding had left him.

She told police she was in fear for her life. She was assessed as being at high risk and had panic alarms installed in her new flat.

Her mother said she had told officers he had threatened to kill Ms Wilding through the use of illicit drugs - but the police have no record of this.

The Home Office told the council, in December 2018: "It is our firm view that the statutory definition for a DHR [domestic homicide review] has been met in this case and that a review is required."

Torbay Council's Community Safety Partnership said: "In this case, the coroner's inquest did not conclude that a homicide or suicide had occurred, nor appeared to have.

"Therefore, the Home Office guidance for a domestic homicide review was not met.

"An offer was made to Ms Wilding's family for an alternative review into agency contact, decisions and actions, but this offer was declined.

"We are in discussions with the Home Office and the relevant parties about how best to learn lessons from this case."

Apportioning blame

But Sarah Dangar, of Advocacy After Fatal Domestic Abuse, which has been supporting Ms Aunger's case, said a DHR could also investigate unexplained deaths.

"It is not about apportioning blame on a perpetrator," she said.

"It's not a criminal justice process.

"We want to make things safer for victims in Torbay."

And Ms Aunger believes there remain lessons to be learned over how the authorities can help break the cycle of women "going back to manipulative men".

"There should be proper help for people concerned about their relationships," she said.

The Home Office told BBC News: "Domestic abuse is a devastating crime that shatters the lives of victims and families - and we are committed to tackling it.

"But there is always more we can do, which is why it is critical that we learn from deaths involving domestic abuse to help improve our response to its victims and its perpetrators.

"Only by doing so can we prevent future tragedies."

Devon and Cornwall Police said it had investigated the circumstances surrounding Ms Wilding's death and "found that there was no evidence to suggest that this matter was a homicide".

"We subsequently produced a file on behalf of the coroner, who recorded a narrative verdict and stated we would never know the circumstances surrounding these deaths," it said.

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