Gracie Spinks: PC thought murder weapons were “props for sex” or useful for “woodwork”, inquest hears
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PC Jill Lee Liggett, an officer with six years’ experience, admitted after collecting the bag – containing hunting knives, an axe and a chilling note – she and another officer made no attempt to drive to the scene where it had been found.
She and another officer – PC Ashley Downing – were dispatched to the Duckmanton home of the woman who found it – Anna White – around 6.30pm on May 6, 2021, the same day it was found.
Entries in the police crime log indicated that after leaving Ms White’s home at 7.18pm, the case was closed as “lost property” by 8.05pm.
Telling the inquest she found the contents “bizarre”, the officer said the contents – including a note which read “don’t lie!” seemed suitable for “woodwork, theatrics or props for sex”.
The brown rucksack – were found on a farm track near Blue Lodge Farm in Duckmanton where Gracie was stabbed to death on June 18 the same year.
The bag contained two large, sheathed hunting knives, a smaller folding knife, an axe, some jogging bottoms, a water bottle with the words “nothing worth having comes easy” written on it, a blister pack of viagra and a note reading “don’t lie!”.
She told the inquest that while at Ms White’s house she saw only two knives and an axe – not inspecting its full contents.
Having never found such a bag before, PC Ligget returned with it to Clay Cross Police Station – having taken no notes of her conversation with the bag’s finder – for advice from her sergeant.
However after finding a Marks and Spencer receipt produced at a Crystal Peaks branch and her “investigative mindset” was sparked, she was told by her sergeant “why would you, Jill?”, said the officer.
The receipt which belonged to Sellers’ father – could have led officers to the home address which he shared with his parents, the inquest heard.
Coroner Matthew Kewley, questioning PC Liggett said: "Once you had the full items in front of you at the station, the axe, the note, the Viagra, it still didn’t raise any concerns once you had it all on the table in front of you?”
PC Liggett said: "I was curious and made a point of looking for something that would identify the owner of the receipt.
"I went down a wormhole about who the owner of the receipt was, going to Marks and Spencer in Crystal Peaks, looking at CCTV and Sergeant Richards said, “Jill, why would you?”
“He had a good look at the bag and advised me to book the property in for destruction.”
The PC confirmed she was not advised to make any “intelligence log” about the bag, it’s contents were not listed and it was put into property store.
PC Liggett confirmed she had said in a previous statement: "If alarm bells rang at every incident I attended I would have burned out years ago.”
Coroner Mr Kewley said: “You didn’t think someone who left those items might have been about to make some sort of attack?”
PC Liggett said: “I don’t remember thinking that.”
Tearfully, the officer added: “I was looking at the bag with the investigative mindset but I had in my mind, Jill, why would you? I was doing what I was told."
Jurors at the inquest heard at no point during the investigation of the bag were any notes taken by Officer Liggett and body-worn camera footage of her conversation with Anna White automatically deleted after 30 days.
Earlier that evening a call handler had a applied a THRIVE – meaning threat, harm, risk, investigation, vulnerability and engagement – risk assessment to Anna White’s call.
Corner Matthew Kewley asked the officer: "Did the assessment raise any alarm bells in your mind about possible crimes and risks to the community?”
PC Liggett said: “Alarm bells did not ring because I’m having so many thoughts about the contents of the bag at that stage.”
"Did you have any concerns about any potential harm to anyone?”, said the coroner.
She said: "There was a level of alarm in my mind, it was what to do next with it. The offences were not made out so I did not have crimes to report.”
On June 18, 2021, Gracie was found at the stables with “lying on the ground”, having been stabbed, at around 8am. Paramedics battled to save her but she died half an hour later.
Pathologist professor Guy Rutty told the inquest Gracie had “10 stab wounds” caused by a “serrated” knife.
Sellars was found dead at 11am, 150 metres from where Gracie had been found – having taken his own life.
Chesterfield Coroners’ Court heard how various staff at the Barlborough e-commerce firm where Gracie and Sellers worked together had complained about the warehouse supervisor before he started showing an “interest” in Gracie.
Coroner Matthew Kewley told the court how in December 2020 Gracie “made it clear” to Sellers “that she did not want to continue meeting up with him”.
However the court heard he would “continue to try and engage with Gracie and would ask “other staff” for information about her.
The coroner said: “It would appear Michael Sellers had become obsessed and could not accept her decision.”
The inquest continues.