The Metropolitan police failed the family of two black sisters who went missing and were later found murdered, but no officer should face a disciplinary hearing, the police watchdog has decided.
Bibaa Henry, 46, and Nicole Smallman, 27, were reported missing on Saturday, 6 June 2020, the day after they were last seen at a birthday celebration for the older sister in a north London park.
Their friends found the bodies “after organising their own search party”. The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) found the Met failed to follow their missing person’s policies, among other errors. The IOPC said it had looked exhaustively at whether bias was a factor and found that it was not.
A call handler referred to one of the missing women as a “suspect” and appeared dismissive when a friend of one of the sisters phoned asking for help, the watchdog found.
The IOPC investigation found that the inspector closed the police logs after receiving information about the sisters’ possible whereabouts from a family member, but that information was “inaccurately” recorded by a communications supervisor. This meant that missing persons inquiries for both women were not progressed properly.
The inspector told the investigation that this had been one of “the most challenging shifts of his career” with 16 missing persons reports open and the North West Command Unit under capacity by almost 50% due to the pandemic.
The report from the IOPC said the Met should apologise, a recommendation Britain’s biggest force has accepted. It said the service the family received from the Met was “unacceptable” during the desperate weekend when their loved ones were missing.
The victims’ mother, Mina Smallman, said she believed race was a factor as the family’s pleas for help over the weekend her children were missing ultimately went unheeded.
She told Channel 4 News: “No one was taking it seriously. There was no search put in place by police. Our phone calls were being disregarded. There was no action at all … Bibaa wasn’t even on as a missing person on the Sunday after we’d made calls on the Saturday. And you know, it’s shameful. It’s shocking.
“Right from the very beginning, they knew they were looking for two girls, two women of colour. I’m trying to understand why they didn’t follow procedure. What could the explanation be?”
The IOPC found an officer and two members of police staff had performed inadequately and they will face action falling short of a disciplinary hearing to improve their performance. Several members of staff must also undertake “unsatisfactory performance procedures”.
Sal Naseem, of the IOPC, said: “Had the MPS [Metropolitan police service] focused on progressing the missing persons’ investigation it may have prevented the further distress caused to Nicole and Bibaa’s loved ones, who made the harrowing discovery after organising their own search party.
“As well as identifying three individuals whose performance fell below the standards expected of them, this investigation also identified failings in the service provided, for which we have now advised the MPS to apologise to the family.
“It is vital that the force addresses these shortcomings and effects long-lasting change and improvement to help restore public confidence in the MPS.”
Cressida Dick said her force would apologise. The Met commissioner added: “The way we responded to information that Nicole and Bibaa were missing that weekend was below the standard we should have achieved and compounded the distress felt by their loved ones.
“While we know that very sadly Nicola and Bibaa had been murdered in the early hours of Saturday, 6 June 2020, before they were reported missing, if we had responded better we may have saved their friends and family immeasurable pain.
“I am very sorry that the level of service we provided fell short. We have contacted the family to ask if they will allow me or, if they prefer, another senior officer to visit them at a time that is right to apologise in person.”
Two Met officers face criminal charges over the taking of photos at the scene where the sisters’ bodies were found murdered.
Danyal Hussein, 19, was found guilty of the sisters’ murder in July. He was said to have drawn up a “contract” in his own blood with a demon to sacrifice women in return for winning the lottery.
Source: (The Guardian)