Jessica Patel was just 34 when her life was ended by her cheating husband Mitesh Patel in May 2018. The couple had known each other since childhood, growing up in West Yorkshire's Hindu community, and were married in 2009.
A review into her death has shone a light on the years of physical assaults, controlling behaviour and suffering she faced before her evil husband strangled her with a Tesco bag for life at their home in Linthorpe, Middlesborough.
Work is underway to learn lessons from Jessica’s murder – including more work to examine the signs of “honour based violence”, a review of the help offered to “diverse communities”, and a recommendation urging the Home Office to look at how small family-owned businesses can deal with signs of domestic abuse.
A 74-page domestic homicide review by the Middlesbrough Community Safety Partnership was published on Monday with the help of Jessica’s family – offering detailed insight into what can be done to prevent similar tragedies in the future.
Mitesh Patel, who was referred to as Mayur throughout the review, had plotted to murder Jessica, claim £2m from a raft of insurance policies and start a new life with his gay lover in Australia.
But the review reported how Jessica had suffered years of domestic abuse at the hands of Mitesh both in the home and at work.
String of long-term domestic abuse
Jessica’s family listed a string of examples of domestic abuse and “controlling and coercive behaviour” which were highlighted in the probe.
They included how Jessica had told her younger sister how Mitesh had “hit her in the car” in disagreements over Jessica being stopped from seeing more of her dying grandfather.
Another example told how Jessica “stopped speaking up about things” and “appeared scared” when it came to committing to attending family events.
There was also familial disquiet – with the report stating Jessica told her younger sister that Mitesh’s mother was “verbally abusive” to her.
Meanwhile, the report added how Mitesh frequently “put down” Jessica.
“This became repetitive and destroyed Jessica’s confidence,” the report summary added.
Jessica’s family told the probe how her husband was a “compulsive liar” – making up how she was “pregnant with twins”.
“This was untrue and Jessica was upset when she then had to tell the member of staff the truth,” the report added. “Mitesh thought it was funny and Jessica’s family believe he was using her desire, to conceive and bear a child, against her as a way of exercising control.”
Isolation on Teesside and sperm suppressor
The report went on to tell how Jessica’s family believed Mitesh had deliberately engineered a move to Middlesbrough about seven years ago to isolate her from her family after she discovered an incriminating text message.
It added Jessica had told her family how Mitesh would come home from work and go into another room to talk to a male every night for hours.
In 2012, Jessica had found out about text message conversations between Mitesh and his lover which had spoken about how they loved each other.
Jessica was upset and disclosed this to her husband’s brother – but this led to a family meeting where Jessica’s family says Mitesh’s sexuality was “never discussed or disclosed” and it was made to look as though Jessica was at fault.
Meanwhile, the report revealed how being a mother was Jessica’s “greatest wish” but she had not conceived after several years of marriage.
In 2015, she started a course of privately provided IVF treatment but during the homicide probe it emerged her husband was secretly taking a drug which was made to suppress sperm count making it “unlikely” Jessica would conceive naturally.
The summary report added: “Since Jessica’s death her father has found out Mitesh made threats to leave her if she did not continue with IVF treatment.”
Colleagues reveal abusive behaviour
Three months before her murder, the report told how Jessica had told her younger sister over Facetime how her husband had put her hands around her neck and hurt her after he’d entered the room.
There was also stark information provided from those who’d worked with Jessica in Middlesbrough and West Yorkshire with Jessica telling colleagues she suspected Mitesh was gay.
The probe detailed how “several employees” working in the Roman Road pharmacy, in Linthorpe, had noticed “abusive behaviour” Mitesh had shown towards Jessica – with Mitesh often shouting at her in front of customers and staff.
The summary report added: “Mitesh often reduced Jessica to tears, slammed doors, threw things and kicked the plinth of the island in the dispensary. Staff also noticed Jessica limping and she told them she had a bruise and that Mitesh had thrown his mobile phone towards her which had hit her leg.”
The report went on to tell how Mitesh was “constantly chatting” on gay dating app “Grindr” and had a reputation for telling lies to colleagues.
It added: “Colleagues in the pharmacy also discovered from Mitesh’s patient record that he was taking a tablet that reduced his sperm count. None of this information was reported to the police or any other agency and only came to light during the homicide enquiry.”
The review panel felt this yet another clear example of Mitesh’s “deceitful and manipulative” behaviour.
Both Jessica and Mitesh were registered with the same GP practice in Middlesbrough and both were well-known to the surgery as their pharmacy was closely linked.
The probe found Mitesh’s behaviour remained “hidden from agencies” and it was only when Mitesh killed Jessica sparking a police investigation that the jigsaw of “appalling behaviour” was revealed from the testimony of colleagues and family.
Jessica visited her GP and told how she was suffering anxiety and was under pressure because she could not conceive in April 2016 which led to a referral for cognitive therapy.
But the homicide review found that the GP not asking questions about Jessica’s potential domestic abuse was a “missed opportunity” to uncover what was going on.
The probe also detailed how Mitesh had intimate relationships with a number of men during the time he was married to Jessica.
Jessica was born into a large Hindu community in Leeds and was described by her family as being a quiet, innocent and “good girl” who wouldn’t hurt anyone.
Both Jessica and Mitesh knew each other as children before meeting again when they were older.
Among the lessons from the tragedy, the independent review found Jessica’s murder was an “honour killing” given wider “cultural beliefs about sexuality” and was an example of something that might have been perceived as adultery and immoral behaviour within the Hindu community.
The report added: “Divorce on the grounds that Mitesh was gay could never have been a reason for him to end his marriage. Consequently, the only way that Mitesh may have felt able to leave the marriage with honour was by killing Jessica.
“Jessica did nothing that was, or might be perceived, as dishonourable. However, her death at the hands of Mayur should be considered an honour killing because Mayur killed her to try and protect his own honour.”
Preventing future tragedies
No fewer than seven recommendations were drawn up by the panel in the domestic homicide review into Jessica’s murder.
It found no agencies held evidence that Jessica was suffering abuse but in retrospect health bodies had the best chance of uncovering anything untoward at the time.
The probe urged a look at strengthening how information on help and reporting concerns was established for work colleagues and “diverse communities” in Middlesbrough to spot signs of domestic abuse.
Honing in on supporting abuse victims in smaller businesses was also one of the recommendations, as well as training for professionals to better recognise abuse and the barriers which may stop victims reporting it.
Plugging gaps in understanding “honour based violence” was another key point the probe urged with better training – plus giving staff at the Human Fertility and Embryo Authority [HFEA] to spot signs of domestic abuse and ask direct questions.
There were findings seeking to make a difference nationally too.
The independent review urged NHS England to look at sending guidance to GPs to ensure care isn’t affected where business or commercial relationships exist.
And the Home Office has been asked to work with the Employers Initiative on the back of the tragedy to guide “small family owned and run businesses, such as pharmacies” on how staff and employers deal with indicators and suspicions of domestic abuse.
Condolences at loss of “beautiful” and “selfless soul”
Mitesh Patel was sentenced to life in prison for the callous and cruel murder of Jessica Patel with a minimum term of 30 years.
Heartfelt tribute was paid by Jessica’s grief-stricken family at the start of the report – bringing home the terrible impact her suffering had wreaked on her loved ones.
“Heaven has gained an angel but the world is at a loss for it,” it added. “Jessica was a rarity: she was beautiful on the outside, and even more so on the inside.
“She had a truly selfless soul and afforded everyone she met with a kindness and generosity that was second to none. As the first born in our family, she brought an immense amount of joy as a loving daughter, granddaughter, niece, elder sister and aunt. She had this lovable smile which encapsulated her gentle nature and innocence, and would make our house feel like a home.
“She was ambitious, and despite some challenging times, through her own determination and hard work she achieved her dream to be a pharmacist.
“As a highly commended medical professional, she understood the true impact of her role, which was to help people and make a difference, something she did every day. A truly inspiring example to us all of what you can achieve with courage and perseverance.
“She had her whole life ahead of her, a life in which she simply wished for true love, a family of her own and to live happily ever after. Above all, her greatest wish was to be a mother, to share the love she had in her heart and feel the same happiness she afforded to our family as a child. She deserved to have a wonderful life, but these wishes will now remain unfulfilled.
“To know that she is here no more, a day that has come decades too early, brings an indescribable pain. However, the outpouring of love and prayers for her has shown the huge loss felt not only by our family, but by the entire community. The world is a dimmer place to have lost a soul like hers. We are extremely blessed to have had Jessica in our lives.
“Even in her own hardships she would still offer you her warm smile, a testament to the wonderful person she was and should be remembered for. We will forever reminisce of our memories together with her and hope one day, somehow, somewhere, we will see her again.
“Jessica, rest peacefully and know that we miss you and will love you always and forever.”
Timeline of abuse
2002/3 – Jessica attends university at De Montfort Leicester and has a short relationship with Mitesh
July 2005 – Jessica graduates from De Montfort University
Sept 2006 – Jessica starts studies in pharmacy at Manchester University
2008 – Jessica speaks to her father about marrying Mitesh
July 2009 – The couple marry
February 2010 – Jessica’s grandfather is very ill and dies – Mitesh refuses to let her return home and stay with her family. Jessica discloses she was hit by Mitesh in a car
July 2010 – Jessica graduates from Manchester University
2010/11 – Jessica works at a pharmacy in Bradford and disclosures to a colleague she suspects he is gay]
2012 – Jessica tells her cousin of relationship problems while on holiday and of Mitesh spending a long time speaking to another man on the phone
Dec 2012 – Jessica’s sister finds an intimate text conversation between Mitesh and his lover
2013/14 – The Patels move to Middlesbrough
April 2015 – Jessica and Mitesh purchase the lease on a pharmacy – Mitesh lies about Jessica being pregnant
Oct 2015 – Jessica starts IVF treatment
2016 – The Patels purchase their Linthorpe home
April 2016 – Jessica tells her GP she feels under pressure to conceive and is sent for cognitive therapy
September 2016 – Jessica is prescribed medication for anxiety and depression by her GP
January 2017 – The Patels attend their GP for a referral to a fertility clinic
July/August 2017 – Both attend James Cook University Hospital fertility clinic
2017 – Pharmacy colleagues review CCTV and see Mitesh kissing and groping another male, they also uncover he is taking medication to lower his sperm count
February 2018 – Jessica’s sister tells of Facetime conversation where Jessica tells of how Mitesh put his hands around her neck
March 2018 – Jessica’s IVF is successful and three embryos are frozen
May 14, 2018 – Jessica is found after being suffocated by Mitesh