Police staff given ‘management advice’ after woman shot dead by ex-husband

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A police call handler has been given “management advice” after failing to record a woman’s reports of escalating violence by her ex-husband who shot her dead eight days later.

Michelle Savage spoke to Sussex Police three times before she was murdered in an execution-style killing at almost point-blank range on March 16 last year.

She told officers former soldier Craig Savage was dangerous and she feared for her life.

The murder weapon
The gun Savage used during the shooting of his ex-wife and her mother Heather Whitbread (Sussex Police/PA)

His trial heard their marriage broke down the month before due to his obsessive and controlling behaviour.

He was enraged by her refusal to reconcile so stole a semi-automatic rifle from a nearby firing range and shot his ex-wife seven times while she “begged for mercy”.

He also killed Mrs Savage’s Staffordshire bull terrier Zeus with a single shot.

Mrs Savage’s 24-year-old sister Raven Whitbread, who was seven months pregnant, and 80-year-old grandmother Patricia Groves escaped unharmed.

St Leonards shooting
CCTV shows Craig Savage leaving a house in St Leonards, East Sussex, after carrying out the shootings (Sussex Police/PA)

The force held a private misconduct hearing earlier in the year where the case was proven and the staff member was given “management advice”, the IOPC said.

The failings were not deemed to be severe enough to be classed gross misconduct so a public hearing for the case did not take place.

The IOPC said Mrs Savage contacted police “a number of times” and met with the same police officer twice in the days before she was killed.

The file was closed after the first meeting when she declined to provide a full statement.

On March 8 she called police reporting criminal damage at the hands of her ex-husband.

Craig Savage
Craig Savage was jailed for 38 years at Lewes Crown Court (Gareth Fuller/PA)

“The call handler also closed the criminal damage file because there was no evidence to suggest it was the woman’s ex-husband who had caused the damage.”

Mrs Savage made a full statement at a police station two days later, on March 10, and said she supported police action so her case was passed on to an investigator.

She was murdered six days later.

The police watchdog recommended the force remind all staff and officers of their duty to fill out a stalking assessment when speaking to victims reporting crime and to review training procedures for officers and staff on domestic abuse, stalking and honour crimes.

Savage’s trial heard that a month before he killed his ex-wife she filed an online report to Sussex Police telling them of his threats and kept a handwritten record of all the incidents.

Savage had tried to blackmail her into having sex one last time, threatening to “destroy her life” with revenge porn if she did not agree.

When she refused, he uploaded about 1,000 pictures of her naked and in underwear to porn websites, naming her and inviting others to download them.

In her statement to police, Mrs Savage said: “I’m concerned for my and my family’s safety as he’s becoming more and more aggressive.

“He is a nasty, spiteful, bitter person and I know if I stay quiet and do nothing then things can only get worse.

“I believe he will hurt me in any way he can, mentally or physically. I believe he wanted to either kill or hurt me, I genuinely don’t know which.”

IOPC regional director Sarah Green said: “It is crucial that victims have confidence that, in coming forward, their allegations will be taken seriously and acted upon.”

The force said it “swiftly took action” to address the concerns and fully accepts the IOPC recommendations.

Detective Chief Inspector David Springett, who leads on stalking for the force, said: “All reports of stalking are taken extremely seriously.

“Enhanced training and awareness and improved support to victims has led to more victims feeling confident to come forward.

“We will continue to work to improve our service to keep people safe and feeling safe.”

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