Luisa Mendes inquest: police response comes under scrutiny

Luisa Mendes.
Luisa Mendes.
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Warwickshire Police’s response to calls made from a Lillington house where Luisa Mendes was later found dead has come under scrutiny at the inquest into her death.

The inquest, which is taking place in front of a jury at Warwickshire Justice Centre in Leamington and is ongoing, has heard how Miss Mendes, 44 and a homeless alcoholic, died of heavy internal bleeding caused by a ruptured spleen, at the address in Briar Close sometime between the evening of October 24 and morning of October 25 2012.

At around 8.30pm on the evening of October 24 she, the tenant Christopher Taylor and his friend Nicholas White who had all been at the address, had been involved in calls made to Warwickshire Police in which Miss Mendes had claimed 13 times she was being or had been assaulted to.

Call handler Laura Barnes had logged the incident as a priority - whereby a police officer or officers would be expected to attend the address within an hour - having decided against upgrading it to an emergency which would have required a response within ten minutes in cases where there was a ‘risk of danger to life, risk of violence or the immediate threat of violence.’.

But no ‘resource’ was despatched to the address that night and when an officer did knock on the door the next morning they received no answer.

It was not until after Miss Mendes’ body was found in the bathroom of the property by Philip Moore of Leamington Night Shelter that any officers entered the property.

This subsequently led to an investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) for which Chief Insp Emma Bastone provided an objective analysis as to the adequacy of how the control centre had dealt with the calls and the incident.

Speaking at the inquest, Chief Insp Bastone said she felt the grading for the call was appropriate.

She said: “Having listened to the call, no assault was going on at the time.

“Judging by what Miss Mendes had said it could be assessed that the violence was historic although it might not have been very historic.”

As a result of the investigation, three control room staff from Warwickshire Police received final written warnings after the IPCC found they had failed to place the calls of Miss Mendes as a priority.

In 2014, the IPCC concluded that there was a failure by staff to prioritise the incident despite three call controllers viewing the incident on ten occasions.

The three controllers were given 12-month final warnings, while a control room inspector was subject to “management action”.

Laura Barnes was not subject to any disciplinary procedures.

Warwickshire’s Deputy Chief Constable Lewis Benjamin said the IPCC’s finding was “extremely disappointing”

He added: “We are now reviewing the hand-over procedures within our operations and communications centre.”

Former Deputy Chief Constable Neil Brunton personally apologised to Ms Mendes’ family.

At that time the death of Ms Mendes was being treated as unexplained.

The inquest is ongoing.

**** We have been asked to point out that the Christopher Taylor referred to in this story and previous reports on this inquest is not Chris Taylor of St Mary’s Road, Leamington. We apologise for any confusion caused *****