Five year wait for police complaints review into double homicide: Family backs Refuge’s call for a public inquiry

Today (26 October 2015), an Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) review into the investigation of the police’s involvement with Rachael Slack, and her son Auden, before their killing, shows that much more should have been done to protect them.

Today’s review is highly critical of the original investigation, which failed to identify a number of police shortcomings. Five years after the killings, the family of Rachael and Auden Slack are still learning more about the failings of the state – not just those of the police and the health professionals, but also the failure of the IPCC to conduct an adequate investigation after their deaths. Today the family of Rachael and Auden Slack call for a public inquiry to investigate why victims of domestic violence are still not getting the protection they deserve from the police and other state agencies.

Rachael and Auden Slack were stabbed to death in their home by Andrew Cairns, Rachael’s ex-partner and father of Auden, on 2 June 2010, before Andrew Cairns killed himself. Rachael had already reported to the police that Andrew Cairns had threatened to kill her and take Auden, and Andrew’s neighbour had separately reported to the police that Andrew had threatened to ‘grab’ Auden. Andrew Cairns mental state was also assessed by a number of medical professionals in the days and weeks leading up to the killing. Although police arrested Andrew Cairns he was released on bail; five days later Andrew Cairns killed Rachael and Auden.

Hayden Slack, brother of the late Rachel Slack, and his wife, Me

An inquest in 2013 uncovered extensive material that was omitted from the original IPCC report. The inquest concluded that Rachael and Auden’s deaths were ‘more than minimally’ contributed to by failings of Derbyshire Constabulary. The police assessed Rachael and Auden as being at serious risk injury or homicide, yet failed to warn Rachael so that she could take steps to protect herself and her son. Today’s IPCC report acknowledges the inquest findings and is also highly critical of the previous report which was ‘totally under resourced’, failed to gather relevant evidence and relied on Derbyshire’s police’s own assessment of events – making the assessment that there were no indications of misconduct after just four days of the investigation.

Rachael Slack’s brother and sister-in-law, Hayden and Melony Slack. Photo by Julian Nieman.

Melony and Hayden Slack, Rachael Slack’s sister-in-law and brother, say:

“Our family has had a challenging, frustrating and painful five-year wait for the publication of this IPCC review. We were offended both by the brevity of the original report and the speed at which it was produced. It is regrettable that the information in the review published today by the IPCC was neither available to the Coroner before the inquest nor the Derbyshire Safeguarding Children’s Board when compiling the Serious Case Review.

“Too many times government institutions announce that ‘lessons have been learned’ following tragedies similar to ours. We believe that these lessons must lead to significant, positive change to ensure other women and children just like Rachael and Auden do not lose their lives due to avoidable failings.

“We support Refuge’s call for a public inquiry into how state agencies respond to incidents of domestic violence. Nothing could have prepared us for the challenges we have had to face since Rachael and Auden died, let alone the pain we experienced and continue to feel since the tragedy. ”

Sandra Horley CBE, chief executive of national domestic violence charity Refuge, says:

“My thoughts go out to the family of Rachael and Auden Slack today. Five years is too long to wait for answers. It is absolutely inexcusable that the initial IPCC investigation was so poorly resourced, handled and executed, adding additional distress to the family during an already devastating period.

“Half a decade has passed since this tragedy, yet the reality is that Rachael and Auden’s case is not a one-off. Domestic violence is an epidemic – a blight on our society. Every week, two women are killed by a current or former partner. In many of these cases, women and children are let down by the police and other statutory state agencies in the weeks and months leading up to their deaths. Day in, day out, Refuge hears from women who have been disbelieved, ignored and denied protection.

“This is unacceptable. That is why Refuge is calling on the Government to open a public inquiry into the police and state response to domestic violence. We need to discover the truth about what is going wrong. The fact that the police watchdog can miss so much when investigating police failings in a domestic homicide case highlights the vital need for a public inquiry. A public inquiry would not just look at individual cases – or individual police forces – it would look at the national picture, connecting the dots between a domestic homicide in Derbyshire with another in Manchester and identifying systematic failures across the country. It will examine not just the response of the police but also other state agencies such as the Crown Prosecution Service, health and Social Services and investigate why they are all failing to protect women and children experiencing domestic violence on a catastrophic scale.

“Enough is enough. No more women and children should die needlessly. Please join me and the Slack family in calling for a public inquiry.”

Sarah Ricca, solicitor for the family of Rachael and Auden Slack, says:

“It is a tribute to the family’s fight and to Refuge that the IPCC has conducted this review and that they have now published the report. The review shows how wrong paper investigations can go and how important public hearings, like inquests, are for families bereaved by domestic violence; enabling them to find out the truth. Only proper public inquiries can really get to the bottom of what went wrong in heart-breaking cases such Rachael and Auden’s and ensure that such tragedies are not repeated.”

Click here to call for a national investigation into the police and state response to domestic violence.