THE FAMILY of Luisa Mendes say more could have been done to prevent her death after police admitted making mistakes.
The 44-year-old’s body was discovered on October 25, 2012 at Christopher Taylor’s Briar Close home in Lillington where she was known to spend some nights each week.
On the day before Ms Mendes’ death, Warwickshire Police received an emergency call around 8.15pm but it was cut off before any details were given.
An operator returned the call and spoke to two men who denied there were any difficulties but Ms Mendes could be heard shouting she had been assaulted.
The call was marked as a priority – requiring police to attend within one hour – and was transferred to a controller whose role was to dispatch officers to the scene. But no-one was sent until the following morning and when there was no answer, the officer left.
Both Mr Taylor and another man, Nicholas White, were arrested in connection with Ms Mendes’ death but were subsequently released without charge.
While in custody, Mr Taylor confessed to hitting Ms Mendes ‘four or five times’ in the stomach the night before she died.
But pathologist Dr Nicholas Hunt told the jury he could not be sure ‘beyond all reasonable doubt’ the injuries she sustained in the attack were the reason why she died.
And following a three week jury inquest, coroner Tom Leeper recorded a narrative verdict – where the circumstances of death are written down without attributing the cause to a named individual – into Ms Mendes’ death.
He concluded Ms Mendes, who was homeless, an alcoholic, and had been a past victim of domestic abuse, died from a catastrophic bleed to the abdomen caused by a rupture to her spleen, which occurred as a result of a ‘deliberate application of force by a third party.’
The inquest also found the failure to upgrade the emergency call to ‘violent’ rather than ‘rowdy/nuisance’, an inadequate handover procedure, and errors or omissions of supervision of the police control room also contributed.
Nancy Collins, a lawyer at Irwin Mitchell, which represented Luisa’s brother Vitor, said: “The family feel strongly more could and should have been done to help Luisa when she was at her most vulnerable.
“They hope lessons will be learnt to prevent other vulnerable individuals suffering similar circumstances in future.”
An investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) criticised the police response and saw three call handlers issued with written warnings.
And a Domestic Homicide Review (DHR) into Ms Mendes’ death also identified significant missed opportunities by the police to intervene and potentially prevent the assault, which caused her injuries.
Ms Collins added: “The DHR flags some important issues in relation to domestic abuse and the family hopes the recommendations for domestic violence and abuse policies will be developed on a national level by all agencies involved.”
N.B. – These proceedings do not concern Chris Taylor of St Mary’s Road, Leamington, who is being wrongly identified as the gentleman named.