Police watchdog the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) has found ‘evidence of missed opportunities' by South Yorkshire Police in how they dealt with the death of Amy-Leanne Stringfellow.The 26-year-old, who was a former soldier who had served in Afghanistan, was stabbed in her neck with a sword, battered with a broken bottle and strangled to death by Terrence Papworth.
Her inquest revealed Papworth, who died in prison while waiting to stand trial over her murder, was on bail at the time of the fatal attack after being charged with an earlier assault on Amy-Leanne, with whom he had been in a relationship with.
The IOPC has carried out two investigations relating to how South Yorkshire Police hanlded the chase. The first was relating to the delay of 11 hours for news of her death to be passed to the next-of-kin and secondly around allegations that concerns had been raised for her welfare a month before her death after Papworth breached his bail conditions.
The findings have now been published, and in both cases the IOPC determined ‘there was no indication that any police officers or police staff may have behaved in a manner that would justify the bringing of disciplinary proceedings or committed a criminal offence’.
IOPC Regional Director Miranda Biddle said: “We obtained statements from officers and staff involved, who were all treated as witnesses throughout, and found evidence of positive action by police in response to both matters.”
“Our thoughts remain with Ms Stringfellow’s family and all those affected by her death,” she added.
The investigation into why it took 11 hours for SYP officers to inform Amy-Leanne’s next-of-kin of her death was launched following a complaint from her parents, an IOPC document detailing the findings of their investigation shows.
Ms Biddle said their investigation found ‘evidence of missed opportunities’ to identify Amy-Leanne’s next-of-kin sooner, and there was ‘insufficient consideration for the family’s welfare’ once they had been notified of her death.
“We found evidence of missed opportunities to identify Ms Stringfellow’s next-of-kin sooner, leading to a delay in them being informed of her death, and insufficient consideration for the family’s welfare after they were notified.
“While we did not consider any officer had a case to answer for misconduct, we identified national learning for police regarding risk assessments when notifying people of the death of a loved one,” she said.
Ms Biddle said the IOPC’s recommendation concerning how police officers should notify people of the death of a loved one has been accepted by the College of Policing.
The IOPC document also stated that after sharing their report with SYP, the force agreed ‘that several officers should undergo reflective practice regarding the importance of communicating key information in an accurate, timely manner and the importance of a Dynamic Risk assessment to support family members in a distressed state’.
No opportunities for learning
The other investigation examined the police response to concerns for Amy-Leanne’s welfare on May 4, 2020, and subsequent steps to safeguard her welfare, after Papworth breached his bail conditions, having been arrested for threatening and assaulting her.
The IOPC findings concerning SYP’s response to the concerns state: “They recorded a crime and gathered evidence from witnesses. SYP identified the alleged perpetrator as the women’s ex-partner and arrested him on suspicion of assault and threats to kill. He was later charged with common assault.”
The IOPC concluded that after ‘careful consideration’ they had not idenitified any opportunities for learning in this instance.
‘Action has already been taken’
Commenting on the IOPC findings, a South Yorkshire Police spokesman said action had aleady been taken to implement the one recommendation that had been made following the watchdog’s two investigations.
The spokesperson said: “We fully acknowledge and accept the contents of the IOPC reports following the investigations into the matters raised.
“One recommendation was made following the investigations and we have already taken action to implement this in force. Learning has been shared not only with the officers directly involved, but also with our FLO (Family Liaison Officer) Co-ordinator and cascaded via our PSD (Professional Standards Department) Champions network to ensure wider awareness and learning across the force.
“Our thoughts continue to be with Ms Stringfellow’s family and friends following her tragic death.”
‘Fearless and self-assured’
In a statement read to the inquest, Amy-Leanne’s mother, Jacqueline Fareham, said her daughter had wanted to be in the army since she was 10 years old and described how she was ‘so proud’ of her achievements as both a soldier and a mother.
Ms Fareham said her daughter was ‘fearless and self-assured’.
She said her daughter left the military after developing post-natal depression following the birth of her daughter, retrained as a personal trainer and became a successful bodybuilder.
Ms Fareham said that she had felt her daughter was ‘slipping away’ as she became much more distant from her family after she met Papworth shortly after splitting from the father of her child.
DC Mark Briggs, of South Yorkshire Police, told the inquest that Papworth left his home after killing Amy-Leanne and admitted what he had gone to a number of people before handing himself in to the police that night.
Mr Briggs said Papworth told one person: “I just stood there and let the life drain out of her.”