Independent Police Complaints Commission
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IPCC highlights failures in handling of assault reported by Keith Dance prior to his murder

An Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) investigation into the way Devon and Cornwall Police handled an assault reported by Keith Dance in the days before his murder has identified individual failures.    

The IPCC’s independent investigation found errors in the actions and decisions of a call handler and two police officers who dealt with Keith Dance three days before he was stabbed to death at his home by former flatmate Ian Gollop and his ex-girlfriend Jacqueline Cooke on 10th March 2013.

IPCC Associate Commissioner Tom Milsom said:  “Keith Dance’s murder was a brutal and callous attack that could not have been predicted when he initially telephoned police.

“Our sympathies remain with Keith Dance’s family. The months that have passed since his death must have been extremely difficult for them. The family raised several concerns at the outset of our investigation and we have sought to address these in the report.”

On Friday 8th March 2013, Mr Dance called police and spoke with the call handler to report that he had been assaulted by Ms Cooke with a knife and had items stolen from his home. She was accompanied by Mr Gollop who had keys to his flat. 

The investigation concluded that the 30 minute call - although difficult - was handled poorly. The call handler did not adequately consider all the available evidence which should have resulted in her identifying Mr Dance’s vulnerability.

Although officers acted with some diligence initially by visiting Mr Dance and taking a statement from him the following day, the investigation thereafter was not progressed adequately. After visiting Ms Cooke’s address shortly after this, police did not appear to make any further attempts to locate Ms Cooke until Tuesday 12th March 2013, when she called to inform them she had stabbed Mr Dance to death at his flat two days previously.  

The IPCC investigation found a case to answer for misconduct for the call handler for the way in which she handled the original call. Unsatisfactory performance was indentified for the two police officers – a detective sergeant and a detective constable - who were responsible for conducting the investigation.

Mr Milsom said: “It is clear from the evidence that the call handler did not recognise Mr Dance’s vulnerability during his call to report the assault. The call handler did not conduct enough research to gain further details which could have improved her judgement; as such her decision to record the assault as a crime instead of opening an incident log was not appropriate. It also had the unintended consequence of future police contact with Mr Dance and Ms Cooke not being systematically recorded in one place.”

“The detective sergeant was diligent in picking up the crime quickly and her initial decision making in relation to risk factors affecting Mr Dance was logical. The review undertaken the next day was also appropriate. However neither the detective sergeant nor the detective constable made any further proactive attempts to locate Ms Cooke and that is disappointing. “

Devon and Cornwall Police has accepted the findings of the IPCC’s report and have since introduced further measures and training for call handlers to identify and record caller’s vulnerability. Misconduct was proven against the call handler and she has since received management advice. The detective sergeant and detective constable are being monitored to ensure their future performance.

The summary investigation report can be read here.


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