'She was let down' - family of Chesterfield's Gracie Spinks hold vigil on her birthday
Friends and family of Gracie Spinks gathered in the copse where she is buried at Old Whittington’s St Bartholomew’s Church in a vigil to remember her, on what would have been her 24th birthday.
In a service led by Reverend Jo Morris - who had known Gracie for eight years - people packed her graveside with candles lit from the church’s Paschal candle.
Rev Morris read prayers and described the Chesterfield girl as “just a really nice person”, adding: “I think it’s really lovely there are so many of you here tonight.”
During the service on Tuesday evening those gathered heard music including The Weekend’s Save Your Tears as Jo lit the candles of those looking on.
While some broke down in tears as a recording of Gracie herself singing in the bathroom was played.
However, as well as marking Gracie’s birthday - 17 weeks since she was fatally stabbed at Duckmanton’s Blue Lodge Stables on June 18 - the vigil also served another purpose.
It is understood that Gracie was killed by Michael Sellers - a supervisor at ecommerce firm Xbite where the 24-year-old worked - who “harassed” her at work and in her personal life.
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.
On the day of Gracie’s brutal death it came to light that a backpack filled with three hunting knives, a hammer and an axe had been handed to Derbyshire Police six weeks before.
Gracie’s mum Alison Heaton said the bag - accompanied with a note reading “don't lie” - was found “just across the road” from the stables.
Speaking to Derbyshire Times she and Gracie’s dad Richard Spinks - determined to keep the memory of what happened to their daughter in people’s minds - said they had been “let down”.
The first knowledge either Alison and Richard had of the bag was when they saw a post on social media about it on the day of their daughter’s death.
Alison said: “Gracie reported to police that he had waited for her at the gates to the stables and the bag was found literally across the road.
“So, if the police had acted upon the bag of murder weapons then hopefully we’d have our daughter here now.”
Richard said: “They didn’t join up all the dots - nothing flagged up that linked the finding of the bag, connected it with Gracie and her complaint.
“If it had flagged up and the dots had been joined she would have got warning and therefore we wouldn’t have lost our daughter.”
Derbyshire Police’s handling of Gracie’s death is currently being investigated by the Independent Office for Police Conduct.
On June 30 a coroner said he awaited an update on the investigation’s progress on October 29 and could not say when Gracie’s full inquest would be held.
However this leaves Gracie's family waiting for answers.
Richard said: “We want to get some answers, not closure because it will go on and on - it’ll never go away.
“But things need to change - hopefully they can highlight what went wrong.”
Alison said: “I just want to know - I’m just really angry about the bag, as to why that bag wasn’t acted upon.”
In the weeks that followed Gracie’s death Chesterfield’s Jackie Barnett-Wheatcroft launched a petition to seek more funding for stalking advocates in all police forces.
The family hopes to have 100,000 signatures by midnight on February 22 calling for Government support for better provision.
Richard said: “Gracie’s Law petition is to raise funds to pay for bespoke individuals to organise and be solely responsible for stalking complaints to do that as a full-time job - not to be pulled off onto another full-time job.
“With everything that’s happened in the media and the press in the last few months it’s all been highlighted - so this is a great time to get the word out there.
“That’s why we want these 100,000 signatures on the petition for Gracie’s Law.”
Speaking at the vigil Jackie Barnett-Wheatcroft told those gathered: “I just want to remind you all, this is a person and we shouldn’t be here.
“I want the MPs to fight this fight - we need 100,000 signatures. Share it with everyone you know and watch them sign it.
“We need these changes - we need to protect our community.”
Toby Perkins said the gathering was about “people remembering Gracie”, however he added: “It’s also about recognising the role of London, the House of Commons, of law, of policing and taking the action that is needed.”
“We all know the one thing the family want more than anything else we can’t help them with and so all we can do for the family is to make sure they get the truth.
“Make sure there are no cover-ups, that everything that needs to be known about what happened in the days and months keading up to Gacie’s brutal murder is known.
“The agony that all of Gracie’s family and friends are feeling is enhanced by the sense that some things could have been done to protect her.”
The family’s lawyer Sajad Chaudhury told the vigil: “There will be justice for Gracie Spinks.”
He said: “Change is required because for everything Gracie did in life she didn’t deserve this - this is not how it should have ended.
“We’ve got to have systematic change - police officers need training and specialist officers need to be there.
“They’ve got to understand that these types of offences need a special kind of training so that victims know what options they’ve got - there has to be a follow-up.”
Mr Chaudhury added that the calls for better support were not an attack on the police force but there were police forces failing victims “across the board” and “that needs to change”.
You can sign the petition for Gracie’s Law HERE.
Derbyshire Police say they continue to liaise with the coroner over the deaths of Gracie Spinks and Michael Sellers - while the IOPC's investigation of prior contact between Gracie Spinks and Derbyshire Police is ongoing.