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How police failed woman who called 9 times over abuse
3:00pm Thursday 13th September 2012 in News
POLICE failed to investigate a series of domestic abuse incidents and to refer an elderly woman for help before she died.
Mary Russell, 81, reported nine incidents of physical abuse at the hands of her husband Albert Russell to agencies including police, social services and her GP in the ten months before her death.
The final report of a Serious Case Review into Mrs Russell’s death – where she is referred to as Mrs A – has finally been published.
An independent report was delayed following the death of the original report author, Margaret McGlade.
Last year a draft report was issued and following final alterations its findings have been published this week. It concludes: “There were some missed opportunities for engagement.”
Police were criticised for not seeking previous information when attending incidents between the couple, and treated each call as its own incident.
The police, social care or the primary care trust could have requested a multi-agency meeting to address the situation and the couple’s unwillingness to seek help unless in a crisis, but none did.
The review recognises the difficulty experienced by officers who were led to believe by Mrs Russell that her husband had dementia.
Police are expected to request a referral for mental capacity assessment, but this was not done.
Despite the history of abuse, the couple’s children were also not informed.
Det Insp Nicola Burston, Essex Police vulnerable victims co-ordinator, said: “When a couple don’t want social services involved or their family to know, we have to respect that.
“There are times we have to accept people know the situation they’re in and they have the ability to make that decision.
“The only time we can share the information is if someone is at immediate risk of harm or death. ”
Mr Russell, who died on November 17 last year aged 88, was admitted to hospital on October 28, 2010, alleging abuse by his wife and was later discharged. The next day, Mrs Russell died.
The report acknowledges the couple, who had been married 56 years, did not seek long-term help and neither wanted to leave the relationship.
The review states: “A breakdown in the couple’s ability to care for one another or in the care package to facilitate discharge from hospital was highly predictable, as were further incidents of phsical abuse, any one of which could have been fatal.”
The police initiated a manslaughter investigation against Mr Russell and passed a file to the Crown Prosecution Service, but it said there was not enough evidence to prosecute.
Chris Doorly, independent chairman of Southend Vulnerable Adults Safe-guarding Board who led the review, said: “What this sad case has highlighted is that there was a cry for help in a crisis when incidents happened, but then afterwards there was unwillingness or reluctance to have agencies coming in.
“We will try to learn from it and improve our practices, and hopefully help people in other situations.”
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