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Leigh woman who died complained nine times about domestic abuse
4:00pm Thursday 29th December 2011 in News
A WOMAN’S death may have been prevented if police and Southend Council had thoroughly investigated claims of domestic abuse, it has been revealed.
A probe has found Mary Russell reported nine physical attacks at the hands of her husband Bert Russell in 2010.
Mrs Russell, 81, of Madeira Avenue, Leigh, who was married to Mr Russell for 56 years, died at home in October 30, 2010, from a bleed on the brain.
Mr Russell, 88, who has since died too, was arrested and a manslaughter inquiry was launched. However, charges were later dropped after it was decided there was not enough evidence to prosecute him.
Now an investigation by Southend Safeguarding Vulnerable Adults Board, commissioned by Southend Council, has revealed how each time police were called to the Russells’ home, they treated Mrs Russell’s claims of domestic violence as stand-alone incidents, instead of looking at the history of the case.
Officers had also wrongly assumed Mr Russell had mental health problems relating to his old age. They then referred the case to social services, but the two organisations failed to act together.
“Following Mrs Russell’s death, Southend Council launched a serious case review into what went wrong. It concluded her death could have been prevented if her earlier complaints had been properly investigated.”
The report, which refers to the couple as Mr and Mrs A, said: “It is possible the specific incident of October 30 may well have been prevented if there had been adequate investigation at the time by Essex Police and Southend Borough Council social care of Mr A’s allegations of abuse by Mrs A, however this is by no means certain.”
Following the probe, Essex Police has been given a string of recommendations to improve their performance.
A spokeswoman would not be specific about the case and said: “We take all domestic abuse seriously, including that involving older people and recognise the additional risks of frailty, loss of mobility or onset of dementia can pose. “Domestic abuse between older people is often less widely recognised in the community.”
The serious case review noted how just hours before her death, her husband had been released from Southend Hospital after he claimed she had abused him. They also missed chances for social services to speak to her, while Mr Russell was being interviewed at the police station.
Simon Leftley, corporate director for adult and community services at Southend council, said: “In many cases, particularly with the victims of domestic violence, many adults will refuse any offers of help or assistance.
“While we must respect the right of adults to make independent decisions about their lives, we also need to ensure that appropriate checks and balances are in place.
“The council has kept the family concerned fully informed of the review and its findings and would like to extend to them its sincere condolences.”
Essex Police are urging anyone in an abusive relationship to contact them, social services or any domestic abuse project which could offer support and protection.
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