EXCLUSIVE: Gracie Spinks’ parents say case was a “total failure of basic policing”

The parents of murdered 23-year-old Chesterfield girl Gracie Spinks have said Derbyshire Constabulary’s handling of their daughter’s murder case was a “total failure of basic policing”.

Tuesday, 30th November 2021, 9:57 am
Updated Tuesday, 30th November 2021, 10:18 am
Gracie Spinks' parents - Richard Spinks and Alison Heaton - say Derbyshire Constabulary have failed in "basic policing"

Richard Spinks and Alison Heaton’s comments came after the IOPC announced five officers in the force had been served with misconduct notices for their involvement in the case.

The misconduct probe will look at the conduct of a constable and a sergeant in relation to their initial contact with Gracie in February - when she made a complaint against work colleague Michael Sellers.

Sellers, 35, their daughter’s supervisor at e-commerce firm Xbite, is thought to have murdered Gracie at Duckmanton’s Blue Lodge Stables where she kept her horse Paddy on June 18.

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Richard Spinks and Alison Heaton at Gracie's family home in Chesterfield

Another sergeant and two constables are also being investigated for their work surrounding a bag of weapons found “across the road” from the stables weeks before Gracie’s death.

The bag - containing hunting knives, a hammer and an axe and a note that read “don’t lie” - was found just six weeks before Gracie’s death on June 18.

It is understood police watchdog the IOPC is due to publish its full report over Derbyshire Constabulary’s handling of events leading up to Gracie’s death in January.

However the IOPC announced that the two sergeants were facing gross misconduct while the three constables faced misconduct hearings.

Gracie's grieving mum and dad Richard Spinks and Alison Heaton say giving a few officers a slap on the wrist is "not good enough"

Reacting to the news, Richard Spinks and Alison Heaton, said they wanted to see all five officers served with gross misconduct notices.

Mum Alison said: “We’re asking for an urgent review of all the cases these officers have dealt with.

“How many cases have they dealt with across Derbyshire which have been swept under the carpet?

“This wasn’t just a mistake - it’s the total and utter failure of basic policing.”

Richard and Alison at Gracie's graveside with her brother Tom, 22, and sister Abi, 15

Gracie reported Sellers to police in February after she saw him waiting for her in a car at the gates of the stables where she tended to beloved horse Paddy every morning before work.

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Grieving parents Richard and Alison described how Gracie - not wanting to prosecute Sellers - asked police to warn him off.

Richard said: “The impression we got from Gracie was that was the end of it - they would speak to him and that would be the end of the whole thing.

“But in hindsight the case was much bigger than we thought - we thought that would be the end of it.”

It is understood that Sellers had a history of harassing women.

However, if police did uncover that detail, Gracie was never informed and neither was she told that when police visited Sellers at his home he told officers they were “in a relationship”.

Richard said: “I can’t believe hearing that didn’t ring any alarm bells - there are so many ways in which the police let us down.”

Speaking about the discovery of the bag of weapons - found opposite the stable gates in May - Alison said: “It’s a bag of weapons with a hammer and a note saying ‘don’t lie’.

“It was very sinister.”

Richard added: “How could someone have missed that bag? Even a 12-year-old child would think ‘this could be used for a murder - what’s going on?’”

Though both Richard and Alison say they are satisfied with the inquiry so far, both hope it will lead to “systemic change” in the police force as a whole.

Richard said: “A slap on the wrist for a few officers is not good enough.”

Alison added: “It’s the whole force that needs to be held to account - this is a systematic failure within Derbyshire Constabulary.

“But we blame the force as a whole because the training is obviously not adequate - what kind of training are offices being given? They’ve failed here on basic policing.”

Richard and Alison told how they had now made an official complaint about Derbyshire Police’s handling of their daughter’s case to the IOPC.

They hope its findings will help make the case for Gracie’s Law - a petition launched in the weeks that followed her death seeking more funding for stalking advocates in all police forces.

Richard and Alison hope the petition - set up by Chesterfield woman Jackie Barnett-Wheatcroft - will have 100,000 signatures by midnight on February 22.

You can sign it HERE.

Derbyshire Police, reacting to the IOPC update last week, said: “We continue to support and fully co-operate with the IOPC investigation into the circumstances leading up to the tragic death of Gracie.

"We are keeping the IOPC up-to-date with a number of improvements we have implemented in recent months and we would encourage all victims of stalking and harassment to report incidents to us for investigation.”

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