999 call handler sacked after Cardiff mother's murder

Joanna Michael
Image caption Joanna Michael was stabbed to death by her boyfriend in 2009

A police call handler has been sacked after an inquiry into why officers took so long to respond to a woman's distress calls as she was being killed.

Joanna Michael, 25, dialled 999 twice during the attack by ex-boyfriend Cyron Williams in Cardiff in August 2009, but when officers arrived she was dead.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) said South Wales Police and Gwent Police had failed her.

Gwent Police said the employee had been dismissed for gross misconduct.

The IPCC investigated after it emerged the mother-of-two had made two potentially life-saving 999 calls in the early hours of 5 August last year but police took 22 minutes to respond and did not arrive until after she had been fatally stabbed.

Two police call handlers, one at Gwent Police and one at South Wales Police, faced disciplinary action following the inquiry.

A Gwent Police spokeswoman said: "Following a disciplinary hearing on 15 October a Gwent Police call handler was dismissed from her employment with immediate effect on the grounds of gross misconduct.

"The individual has the right to appeal this decision, therefore it would be inappropriate to make further comments at this stage.

"The family of Joanna Michael has been informed of this decision and our thoughts remain with them at this time."

South Wales Police said a male call handler had been dealt with via the disciplinary process but was still working for them.

A spokeswoman said: "Every day, South Wales Police responds to around 1,500 incidents and our control room staff are required to continually apply their judgement and response guidelines to many complex and often confusing scenarios.

"We would like to reassure the public that several key changes have been made to the way we handle emergency calls since the conclusion of this tragic case and the report by the IPCC.

"The force has produced an action plan which directly addresses how we can prevent such an incident from happening again.

72 wounds

"This includes putting rigorous processes in place to iron out issues with misrouted emergency calls, carrying out work to improve communication and administrative processes and have provided further training for all our control room staff."

In its report the IPCC concluded that Ms Michael "was failed by Gwent Police, South Wales Police and the 999 system itself".

She died when Williams broke into her home and found her with another man.

She suffered 72 separate wounds in the knife attack.

Williams was jailed for life, with a recommendation that he serve 20 years, after admitting murder at Cardiff Crown Court in March.

The IPCC report found Ms Michael's panicked mobile phone calls, and those of anxious neighbours, were unaccountably misdirected to Gwent Police by a phone mast.

Then critical minutes were lost as the details were passed to South Wales Police.

The problem was compounded by the fact the first call handler did not take full details.

It was only when a terrified Ms Michael phoned a second time, and her call was again misrouted to Gwent Police, that officers were sent to her home.

Following the report's publication in July, the two forces issued a statement, saying the service given to Ms Michael did not reflect what the public should expect.

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