Coroner slams police for failing to protect murdered mother-of-four

Coroner slams police for failing to protect murdered mother-of-four

Stabbed to death on the school run: Coroner slams Surrey Police for failing to protect mother-of-four, 39, who was murdered by her estranged husband in front of their daughter after he hacked her iCloud and tracked her down

  • Aliny Godinho was repeatedly stabbed by husband Ricardo in February 2019
  • She was attacked as she stepped off bus with her daughter on the school run
  • Aliny had contacted police numerous times in weeks leading up to the stabbing
  • But police failed to properly probe reports and did not recognise she was at risk
  • A coroner today slammed Surrey Police in a Prevention of Future Deaths report
  • It comes after watchdog also criticised force for ‘serious failings’ in the case 

A coroner has slammed Surrey Police for failing to protect a mother-of-four who was brutally stabbed to death by her estranged husband as she stepped off a bus with their young daughter – after he hacked her iCloud and tracked her down.

Aliny Godinho, 39, was travelling to collect her children from school in Epsom, Surrey, when she was confronted and repeatedly stabbed by Ricardo Godinho in front of horrified witnesses in February 2019.

She had made numerous complaints to police about his conduct in the months leading up to and on the day of her death, but officers failed to properly investigate the reports and did not recognise that she was at risk of serious harm.

Aliny had been provided with accommodation in Streatham, south London, but police also failed to act when they became aware Godinho had learned of the address and had hacked into her iCloud – allowing him to access all her communications. 

An inquest into her death in February concluded that Aliny was unlawfully killed and Surrey Police ‘probably more than minimally contributed’ to her death.

And Senior Coroner for Surrey Richard Travers has now penned a Prevention of Future Deaths highlighting the multiple opportunities police had to save her life.

The report has also criticised failures of both the investigating officer and her supervising sergeant in protecting the vulnerable mother.

The couple were married for 17 years, but had separated in late December 2018 as Godinho’s behaviour became increasingly intimidating.

On December 27, she first made a complaint of domestic abuse against her husband.

Mother-of-four Aliny Godinho was stabbed to death by her ex-husband seconds after stepping off a bus in Epsom, Surrey

Mr Godinho was convicted of Aliny’s murder in July 2019 and jailed for life with a minimum term of 27 years

Surrey Police initially assessed her risk of harm to be high and, the following day, Godinho was arrested and released on bail condition that were designed to safeguard Aliny.

She was subsequently provided with the accommodation in Streatham, which was not known to her husband.

Surrey Police’s specialist Safeguarding Investigation Unit took on responsibility for the investigation, but immediately downgraded the risk of harm to medium.

No risk assessment, safeguarding plan or investigation plan was ever made by the safeguarding unit beyond an initial report and no further evidence was gathered.

Over the following weeks, Aliny made a series of further complaints to the force about Godinho’s ‘ongoing abusive conduct’.

And on January 11, 2019, police became aware Godinho had learned of the address of Aliny’s Streatham accommodation.

However, five days later, his bail conditions were removed and he was released under investigation.

On the day of her murder, February 8, Aliny made a further report to police at around 11.30am.

She complained of Godinho’s ‘escalating conduct’, which included ‘having accessed her iCloud account and all her communications’.

As she was residing at the accommodation in Streatham, Surrey Police passed the complaint onto the Metropolitan Police, who arranged to meet with Aliny the following day in London as she had commitments in Epsom that afternoon.

She was not seen by police before her murder.

The mother-of-four was getting off a bus with her daughter in London Road, where Godinho lay in wait in his pick-up truck armed with a kitchen knife.

Having tracked her down using an app on the child’s phone, he leapt out and stabbed her multiple times before dropping his weapon and fleeing.

Her death, in the pouring rain, was witnessed by passengers on the bus – including other school mothers.

Godinho fled the scene and drove to the nearby office of his maintenance company.

CCTV showed Aliny’s final moments boarding a bus with her three-year-old daughter to pick up her three other children from school before being confronted and stabbed by Mr Godinho

Godinho pictured paying for petrol before getting into a pick-up truck and driving to attack his estranged wife 

He was sentenced to at least 27 years in prison after a two-and-a-half week trial at Guildford Crown Court in July 2019.

Giving his conclusion at the inquest in February earlier this year, Mr Travers identified seven areas in which police had contributed to her death.

He cited a failure to ensure that all officers working in the specialist safeguarding unit were familiar with the force’s policy and procedure for domestic abuse and failures to recognise that Aliny was at ‘high risk’ of harm.

As a result, there was a failure to implement a safeguarding plan that took into account Godinho’s conduct leading up to the stabbing and his knowledge of the Streatham address.

The coroner also said Surrey Police failed to make a plan to investigate allegations made by Aliny and failed to hold Godinho to account over his actions.

Further failures were identified in removing his bail conditions and in responding to Aliny’s complaint over her husband’s ‘further recent and escalating conduct’ in the hours before his death. 

The following month, the Independent Office for Police Conduct identified ‘serious failings’ following an investigation into Surrey Police’s handling of the case, concluding that there was ‘confusion over responsibilities and procedure’.

Surrey Police has made ‘significant changes’ since the inquest, including amending domestic abuse procedures and replacing its specialist safeguarding unit with a new Dedicated Abuse Team with increased resources. 

But in a report published on Tuesday, Mr Travers said there remained a ‘continuing risk’ that future deaths may occur as he set out six further areas of concern that the force must address.

CCTV showing Aliny boarding the bus in Epsom, Surrey, shortly before she became the victim of a horrific daylight stabbing

Police tape at the scene of the daylight stabbing in Stoneleigh an affluent area near Epsom in Surrey

Addressing training of the new Domestic Abuse Team, he said that, previously, not all members of the safeguarding unit were familiar with the force’s domestic abuse policy.

The new Domestic Abuse Team have been required to read the policy and procedure, but the coroner highlighted that training has not been provided because the document is still being written and, until it is delivered, the risk of similar incidents remain.

Mr Travers pointed to failures by the officer in the case, who subsequently faced a misconduct meeting and was required to undertake further training.

However, she still works within the Domestic Abuse team but has not yet undertaken the further training.

The coroner also criticised her supervising sergeant for failing to ensure that safeguarding and investigation plans were in place.

He added: ‘There continues to be no system in place to ensure, through supervision, that the steps which the Officer in the Case must take from the start of the investigation, including in relation to the initial risk assessment and the setting of safeguarding and investigation plans, have been taken in a timely manner. 

‘I was told that a supervisory review every 28 days is now included on “niche” as a task for the sergeant but, in my view, this will not ensure that there is effective supervision at any earlier stage of the investigation.’

The report detailed concerns over the monitoring and auditing of the new Domestic Abuse Team.

Evidence during the inquest revealed that, on three occasions, reports made by Aliny to Surrey Police concerning her husband’s conduct were incorrectly passed to the Metropolitan Police and ‘without sufficient information first being adduced and risk assessed’.

The errors were not realised until her inquest three years later and training is also yet to be provided on how call handlers should deal with reports concerning cases being probed by Surrey Police when the victim is living outside the county.

Finally, Mr Travers identified ‘a failure to a to take account of the risk arising from the fact that the perpetrator was from Brazil’ due to its considerable higher level of domestic abuse crimes.

He said he there is no national source of information concerning such cultural risks and, although steps had been taken within the force to build knowledge of cultural norms for local communities, such a national database would ‘assist in ensuring cultural risk is not overlooked’.

Copies of the report have been sent to Aliny’s family, the IOPC, the Met Police commissioner and the investigating officer and her supervising sergeant.

The IOPC report earlier this year led to the introduction of nationwide changes to policing.

A police car at the scene of the stabbing in Epsom, Surrey, in February 2019

A learning recommendation to the College of Policing led to a redraft of its Authorised Professional Practice for domestic abuse investigations.

Graham Beesley, IOPC regional director, said: ‘The investigation we carried out into the circumstances around Aliny’s death identified shortcomings in terms of Surrey Police’s safeguarding, risk assessments and investigation in accordance with their domestic abuse policy, all of which was highlighted in the coroner’s findings.

‘While individuals have been held accountable for their actions, another important element of our work is to identify learning in order to improve policing.

‘The recommendations we have made from this case to strengthen the handling of domestic abuse investigations have been accepted both nationally and locally by Surrey Police and will hopefully contribute to reducing the risk of similar tragedies in the future.’

Following the probe, Detective Superintendent Juliet Parker, of Surrey Police, admitted that the force had failed and said it was ‘truly sorry’ and ‘deeply regretful’.

She said: ‘Our thoughts have been with the family and friends of Aliny since her tragic death and we recognise the profound impact her death has had on all those who knew her.

‘We agree there were failings on the part of Surrey Police in how her case was handled. Opportunities to safeguard Aliny were missed and for that we are deeply regretful. 

‘We remain committed to tackling the issue of domestic abuse and measures have already been put in place as a result of the important learning which has come out of this case.

‘Our officers are at the heart of the service we deliver to the public and all of those involved have been significantly affected by this tragedy. We come to work every day with the aim of keeping people safe.

‘On this occasion we failed and we are truly sorry.’ 

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