POLICE failed to respond to a priority call just 12 hours before a woman was found dead, an inquest has heard.
The body of Luisa Mendes was discovered at an address in Briar Close on October 25, 2012 with a post-mortem revealing she died from internal bleeding and a ruptured spleen.
Re-opening the inquest into the 44-year-old’s death this week, deputy coroner Tom Leeper explained how Ms Mendes was registered homeless and would spend nights at the property in Lillington, which belonged to Christopher Taylor.
Another man – Nicholas White – was also known to be a regular visitor.
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 with two men who said a woman was at the house who would not leave, while the woman claimed 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. The police were then called back shortly before 11am following the discovery of her body.
Giving evidence, Warwick man, Keith Skinner said he befriended Mr Taylor and Mr White as all three were alcoholics who drank at various locations across the town.
He recalled how he had been drinking with Mr White on the morning Ms Mendes’ body was found but said he had only met her once when the pair realised they had a mutual friend in Mr Taylor and he offered to buy her a drink after she asked for money.
Mr Skinner told the jury he was prompted to make a statement to police when Mr Taylor drunkenly confessed to beating Ms Mendes while he was staying at the property in Briar Close in late 2012.
He claimed Mr Taylor told him he ‘had hit her several times in the ribs’ and said it was because ‘she was his girlfriend and she had been ‘on the game’ at the bottom of town.’
The jury also heard how on another occasion Mr Taylor said ‘I beat her that morning she died – she deserved it for going behind my back and selling herself.’
Mr Skinner said he also overheard a conversation between Mr Taylor and Mr White in which the former admitted he told police Mr White had been at the house “even though you wasn’t because I didn’t want to go down on my own.”
Mr White and Mr Taylor were arrested in connection with Ms Mendes’ death but were subsequently released without charge.
The court also heard evidence from Philip Moore, of Leamington Night Shelter, who delivered groceries to Mr Taylor’s house on the morning of October 24.
Coming back to the property in the evening however, he was approached by Ms Mendes, who claimed Mr White had bruised her arm.
Mr Moore told the jury he was not unduly concerned as Ms Mendes could ‘handle herself’ and the situation was not sufficiently volatile for her to receive more injuries. He said with hindsight he should have taken her somewhere or called the police.
Mr Moore returned the following day to deliver more groceries to Mr Taylor, the pair were sat down in the front room when Mr Taylor called out to Ms Mendes several times without reply.
Mr Moore said he then looked across to the bathroom of the property where he saw Ms Mendes sprawled across the floor.
He confessed to mistakenly believing she had passed out from a night of drinking but after calling for an ambulance, paramedics confirmed she had been dead for two hours.
Probation officer Amy Ramswell worked with Ms Mendes in the months prior to her death.
She told the inquest how during a routine appointment on October 23, Ms Mendes had a bruised eye and confessed to being ‘hit by a man she lived with at Briar Close’ but said she did not want to report the incident.
The court also heard Ms Mendes denied being in a sexual relationship with anyone in the house, but Ms Ramswell said in her professional opinion she could have been giving sexual favours to fund her drinking habit.
Ms Mendes’ brother came over from Portugal to give evidence in the inquest, which is expected to last three weeks, and is being represented by solicitors who are asking questions on his behalf.
Three police call handlers were given written warnings after an Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) investigation into Ms Mendes’ death concluded previous rowdy calls from the number had led police controllers to believe it was a nuisance call and prompted operators not to take it seriously.
The inquest continues.
N.B. – THESE PROCEEDINGS DO NOT CONCERN A CHRIS TAYLOR (PICTURED BELOW) OF ST MARY’S ROAD IN LEAMINGTON, WHO IS BEING WRONGLY IDENTIFIED AS THE GENTLEMAN NAMED IN THIS ARTICLE.