WARWICKSHIRE Police has paid out over £21,000 to the family of a Leamington woman found dead after the force failed to respond to a 999 call.
The force has also apologised to the family of Luisa Mendes whose body was discovered at an address in Lillington 14 hours after her desperate call saying she was being beaten by two men.
No one was charged in relation to the 44 year-old’s death but a jury at the inquest concluded on the balance of probabilities Luisa had been assaulted and had died because of trauma caused by the assault.
The inquest was told on the day before Luisa’s death in October 2012, police received an emergency call around 8.15pm but it was cut off before any details were given.
An operator returned the call and spoke to two men who denied there were any difficulties but Luisa could be heard shouting she had been assaulted.
The call was marked as a priority – requiring police to attend within one hour – and was transferred to a controller whose role was to dispatch officers to the scene.
Police eventually attended the Briar Close property the next day at 10am. Luisa was found collapsed in the bathroom. Paramedics were called but she was pronounced dead at the scene.
Luisa had moved to England from Portugal in the 1990s and led a happy life, running her own business.
But things started to go wrong following the breakdown of a long-term relationship and the collapse of her business.
She started drinking heavily, was sporadically homeless, and also suffered domestic violence.
From time to time she lived with a man, Chris Taylor who was also an alcoholic, at his home where she died. Another man, Nicholas White also lived at the address on and off. In the months before her death Luisa had called the police on a number of occasions saying she had been hit and was being followed.
In a letter of apology to Luisa’s family, the force acknowledged errors were made in the handling of the call including a failure to upgrade the incident and the decision not to deal with it until the following morning.
Following an IPCC investigation, misconduct action was taken against four police officers. The force admitted liability for the breaches of the Human Rights Act and settled the claim for £21,687 and issued a formal apology to the family.
Nancy Collins, civil liberties solicitor at London law firm Hodge Jones & Allen, was instructed by Luisa’s family to bring a claim against Warwickshire Police.
Ms Collins said: “Luisa was a vulnerable woman who was known to the police and had been a victim of domestic violence. The police had a duty to protect her and when she dialed 999 saying she was being beaten, help should have been sent immediately.
“Instead, the collective failures of police officers and employees meant that she was treated as a nuisance rather than a victim and help did not arrive until it was far too late. It is hoped that lessons will be learnt from Luisa’s death and that where there is a risk of domestic violence appropriate and timely support will be provided.”
Vitor Mendes hoped lessons would be learned from his sister’s tragic death.
He said: “She was vulnerable and deserved protection from the police, regardless of her difficulties.
“Whilst this settlement does little to compensate for our loss, four years on, I hope that Warwickshire Police will be true to their word and review their systems and policies to ensure they protect people like Luisa in the future.”