‘He was let down’: Report lays bare Derbyshire police failures after Chesterfield man murdered and fed to badgers
The family of a Chesterfield pensioner who was murdered and dismembered say he was ‘let down’ by Derbyshire Constabulary – after the police watchdog identified a series of failings by the force before his horrific killing.
Graham Snell, 71, was murdered by Daniel Walsh at his home on Marsden Street on June 20, 2019.
He then chopped up Mr Snell and deposited his body parts across Chesterfield – including in a badger sett – in a crime which appalled the town.
An Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) investigation into Derbyshire Constabulary’s contact with Mr Snell prior to his murder found opportunities for intervention were missed after he told officers that a man staying at his home uninvited was stealing from him.
Police did not run checks which would have revealed that the man he named, Walsh, was wanted for robbery.
Mr Snell disappeared shortly afterwards and Walsh was subsequently arrested and convicted of murdering him. He is now behind bars for at least 28 years
Annamarie Ashton, Mr Snell's niece, and her husband Steven told the Derbyshire Times: “If police had done their jobs properly, there's every chance Graham would still be here today and he would not have died in such a horrific way.
“There have been a number of missed opportunities by officers and we're absolutely appalled.
“As a family, we should never have gone through all this – Graham should never have gone through all this.
“He was a wonderful person who was murdered and dismembered, and we'll always miss him; we'll never get over what happened to him.
“We’ve every respect for the investigating officers involved in Graham's murder – but we’ve completely lost faith and trust in the police at Beetwell Street in Chesterfield.
“Graham was let down by Derbyshire Constabulary.
“This should never have happened – and we feel someone needs to be held accountable.
“We are now considering taking further action against the force.
Following a referral from Derbyshire Constabulary in July 2019, the IOPC independently investigated the force’s contact with Mr Snell prior to his death after visiting Chesterfield police station on June 19 that year to report that Walsh was staying at his home uninvited and had stolen money from his online bank account.
Evidence gathered by the IOPC indicated that safeguarding opportunities were missed when the enquiry officer who spoke to Mr Snell at the station treated it as anti-social behaviour, although noting that verbal threats had allegedly been made by Walsh and that Mr Snell feared he might be harmed.
The enquiry officer and a police constable assigned to visit Mr Snell did not record an offence or carry out checks at that time which would have shown Walsh was wanted and had a history of violence, including violence towards Mr Snell.
There was no answer when the constable went to Mr Snell’s address on June 20 and he was then deassigned from the incident.
The job remained on a tasking list but the IOPC found that due to a systemic error the constable’s supervisor and the control room, which assigned the officer, both thought the other was dealing with it.
This led to the incident being overlooked until it was randomly audited on June 29 by a control room supervisor.
It then took a further 26 hours to deploy officers although the incident was graded as a priority following checks revealing Walsh’s history.
On June 30, the constable who had originally been allocated revisited Mr Snell’s home, hours after a neighbour had reported concern over not seeing him for more than a week.
Derrick Campbell, IOPC regional director, said: “My sympathies are with the family of Mr Snell and all those affected by his death in the most harrowing of circumstances.
“Our investigation indicates that individuals and the systems used by the force did not recognise or respond appropriately to the risks in this case.
“There were safeguarding failures and the opportunity to intervene promptly and effectively before Mr Snell was murdered was missed.”
According to the IOPC, the force has now accepted ‘learning recommendations’ from its report aimed at improving guidance around tasking responsibilities for supervisors, and the management and resourcing of incidents.
Mr Campbell added: “I am pleased that the force has accepted our learning recommendations designed to add clarity around the supervision, tasking and resourcing of incidents to avoid confusion over who is responsible for doing what, and to improve processes and training for carrying out risk assessments and safeguarding vulnerable people.”
An IOPC spokesperson added: “We found that many of the issues were systemic but the force agreed that the enquiry officer who initially dealt with Mr Snell, a member of police staff, had a case to answer for misconduct.
“However, as they resigned from the force during our investigation, no further action could be taken.
“We also found that the constable who was originally tasked with following up Mr Snell’s report had a case to answer for misconduct for not recording the alleged theft, not carrying out intelligence checks prior to going to his home on June 20 and not considering him as vulnerable.
“It was agreed with the force that this would be dealt with through management action supported by a detailed performance plan.
“Another officer in a supervisory position has received further training in the management of incidents and tasking lists, although we found no case to answer for misconduct for their actions.”
A Derbyshire Constabulary spokesperson said: “Our sympathies are with the family and friends of Mr Snell.
“As a force we have already accepted the learning recommendations borne out of the IOPC’s investigation, changes have been made to the force’s working practices and additional training of officers and staff has taken place.
“We also note their findings published on Thursday and will be giving careful consideration to the same.”