Essex

Benfleet deaths: Police criticised over mum-in-law killer

Jennifer Cronin Image copyright Essex Police
Image caption Jennifer Cronin was set on fire by Kieren Lynch at her home in Benfleet

Police have been criticised for failures in the lead-up to a man setting fire to his mother-in-law and then himself.

Kieren Lynch, 50, set alight 72-year-old Jennifer Cronin in her garden in Benfleet, Essex, on 13 March 2018.

He then doused himself in petrol and set fire to himself.

Failures to arrest Mr Lynch and inaccuracies in police databases contributed to the deaths, a jury ruled.

Mrs Cronin died just over two weeks after the attack in Boyce Green.

The inquest, which is investigating both deaths. heard her daughter Susan Lynch had been planning to divorce her husband after 25 years of marriage due to his cocaine addiction.

The jury concluded Mrs Cronin was unlawfully killed while Mr Lynch died by suicide but that poor communication by Essex Police had been a factor.

Image caption Susan Lynch (centre) said her family had been "extremely let down"

Mrs Lynch said she felt "extremely let down" by Essex Police and simply wanted officers to "do their job".

Mr Lynch had been arrested on suspicion of causing criminal damage on 11 January 2018 and was given bail conditions not to contact his family or attend the address where the couple's two teenage daughters lived.

But despite Mrs Lynch reporting multiple incidents between 7 March and 12 March, he was not arrested.

Image caption Kieren Lynch was seen running into the garden carrying a knife and petrol can, an inquest heard

Assistant coroner Tina Harrington said she would compile a prevention of future deaths report.

Essex Police said it accepted the findings of the inquest and would take action to address the issues raised.

Det Ch Supt Steve Worron said: "I would like to offer my condolences to the families of Jennifer Cronin and Kieren Lynch during this difficult time. I know the incident... had a profound and painful impact on everyone involved.

"No officer goes out on their daily business looking to let victims down but in this case we could have kept Mrs Cronin safer and we apologise for that."

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