The parents of Gracie Spinks have said the police showed “total incompetence” before their daughter’s death and have called for national changes to protect women and girls.
An inquest jury concluded on Thursday that Ms Spinks, 23, was unlawfully killed by Michael Sellers in Duckmanton, Derbyshire, on June 18 2021, months after she had reported Sellers to Derbyshire Police for stalking.
The inquest heard that the force had admitted multiple failings over their investigation into Ms Spinks’ complaint, with Sellers only graded as posing a low risk and given words of advice over his offending, and no action being taken over a bag of weapons, later linked to Sellers, being found near where Gracie was killed a month later.
Ms Spinks’ mother, Alison Ward, and father, Richard Spinks, said the pain of their daughter’s loss “has got harder” in the years since her death.
Speaking before the inquest conclusion, on Monday, Mr Spinks, 68, said: “When you lose a child, it’s bad enough, but when you lose a child to murder it’s a zillion times more heartwrenching [and] upsetting.
“It destroys your life, it will never be the same again.”
Both parents spoke of their anger towards Derbyshire Police, with Mr Spinks claiming the force wanted to “shelve” his daughter’s concerns.
He said: “I’m not happy with Derbyshire Police at all because it’s just been a catalogue of errors, one mistake after the other, not following procedures, ticking boxes, joining up the dots, proper investigation.
“They just seemed to want to get the job done, deal with the bag or deal with the complaint and shelve it and forget about it. There was no investigation.
“It’s just total incompetence.
“It’s appalling really, and I don’t know how anybody can have the confidence, for example, young girls going to complain about stalking or harassment, whether they’ve got the faith in the police to do something about it or to act on it, or whether they’re just going to take a note of it and shelve it again like in Gracie’s case.
“It all centres around the police’s inaction from each of those five officers that were involved with Gracie’s case, and it got progressively worse as we got towards the fifth one.
“Each one was more ridiculous than the one before in their inaction, excuses, lack of investigation and not knowing what they were doing.”
Mrs Ward, 53, said: “That’s what we keep coming back to all the time, is common sense.
“It’s just basic policing skills that just were not put in place with regards to Gracie’s case. The only people that really took Gracie seriously were the call handlers.”
She added: “It’s only when you actually bring the police into that equation, that the police did nothing.
“All they wanted to do was shut it down.”
In tributes given to the court, Mr Spinks described his daughter as an “amazing and unique person” while Mrs Ward said her family’s heart “had been ripped out” by her death.
Chesterfield Coroner’s Court heard how Ms Spinks was planning to apply to become a police officer, after her brother, Tom, had already applied.
The family have since begun a campaign, named Gracie’s Law, which calls for more funding for stalking advocates to be employed by forces to deal with stalking complaints.
While a debate was held in Parliament after a petition reached 100,000 signatures, Mr Spinks said “nothing seems to really have happened” and the family have now renewed their calls for action.
Mr Spinks said: “I would like to see, across the board, all of the constabularies, and there’s a lot throughout the country, all employing a stalking co-ordinator and advocates to deal with stalking, who have been trained to be able to deal with it, to give the right advice and to make a difference.
“We want to make a difference.”