A Lincolnshire domestic abuse victim died after waiting eight minutes on hold to police, desperately attempting to report her boyfriend, according to an investigation by the New York Times based on a leaked confidential report.
The Independent Office for Police Conduct has today told The Lincolnite it has cleared Lincolnshire Police of any breaches, despite multiple failings highlighted in an internal report into the tragic death of Daniela Espirito Santo, 23, on April 9, 2020 in Grantham.
The New York Times reported that Daniela died hours after being assaulted by her partner Julio Jesus. It was the seventh time in a year she had reported him to police for violence and death threats.
Jesus is already out of prison. He was cleared of manslaughter and jailed for 10 months over two counts of assault.
IOPC has completed its independent investigation, but will not release their findings publicly until the conclusion of future inquest proceedings.
The report reveals:
- Daniela reported her boyfriend to the police on seven occasions, including for death threats and for trying to strangle her
- Ms Espirito Santo was pregnant with her second child when she first reported Mr Jesus to police on May 19, 2019. She told officers he had threatened to kill her, that he was violent and controlling and “excessively jealous”, but she did not want to press charges
- Two of the calls came in the hours before her death, including in the morning after Mr Jesus had pinned her on the bed and pressed his forearm against her throat
- Mr Jesus was taken into police custody before being released soon after. He returned to Ms Espirito Santo’s apartment and it wasn’t long before she was back on the phone to police reporting that he had assaulted her. However, the dispatcher told her the situation ‘wasn’t urgent’, because her boyfriend had left
- The dispatcher redirected her to a non-emergency hotline and he hung up after 94 seconds. Sadly, she died just over an hour later from heart failure and police found her slumped on her sofa, not breathing and with her distraught baby cradled in one arm
- She had spoken to the non-emergency call taker and was on hold for eight minutes. When the dispatcher picked up, the only sounds were the cries of a seven-month-old baby
Investigative reporter Jane Bradley described the case as an example of how Britain’s justice system was failing women. She attributed details in the article to a confidential watchdog report looking into Lincolnshire Police’s handling of the case.
She also alleged that Lincolnshire Police attempted to gain a court order to stop her from speaking to the mother of the victim.
The New York Times revealed failings such as multiple police clerical errors. This included failing to carry out basic checks before redirecting her to a non-emergency hotline minutes before she died. The IOPC said learning was identified for police in relation to the case, but “no indiction was found that any officer had behaved in a manner that may have breached police standards of professional behaviour”.
The Crown Prosecution Service explained it withdrew a charge of manslaughter against Mr Jesus. After a review of expert medical reports, it was concluded that there was “insufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of a manslaughter conviction”.
That’s because Daniela had a complicated heart condition and different medical experts argued the assault could have caused the fatal heart failure, but so could a verbal argument. Yet she reported an assault, not an argument, minutes before her death, according to the report.
NYT said her death is part of a “grim statistic” which states that one of 16 women and girls killed in suspected domestic homicides during the first month of Britain’s lockdown.
Lincolnshire Police had to report the incident to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) because Ms Santo had contacted the force in the run up to her death.
IOPC Regional Director Derrick Campbell told The Lincolnite: “The death of Daniela Espirito Santo was a tragedy and our thoughts remain with her family and friends.
“Our independent investigation, which followed a mandatory referral from Lincolnshire Police due to prior contact with Ms Espirito Santo, began in April 2020 and concluded in December.
“We looked at the actions of police on seven occasions where they had contact with Ms Espirito Santo or Julio Jesus, who was convicted of assaulting her, in the 12 months prior to her death.
“We obtained witness statements from more than 20 officers and staff directly involved in those incidents and reviewed police records and body-worn camera footage.
“Following careful analysis of the available evidence, we found no indication that any officer had behaved in a manner that may have breached police standards of professional behaviour and would justify bringing disciplinary proceedings.
“However, the actions of two officers were such that there was learning identified for both in relation to some of their interaction with Mr Jesus.
“In considering the 999 call on the day of Ms Espirito Santo’s death, while we found the call handler had operated according to training provided to staff, we recommended that the force implement a written policy making it clear when calls should be directed to the 101 non-emergency number.
“As an inquest has yet to take place, it would not be appropriate for us to comment further at this time.”
Lincolnshire Police response
Detective Superintendent Suzanne Davies, head of Professional Standards at Lincolnshire Police, said: “We welcome the opportunity to talk through the findings of the IOPC report, but because that report has not yet been officially published and an inquest is pending, it is not possible at this moment in time to offer comment.
“We have reached this decision after having consulted with the Coroner in Lincolnshire who will hear this case and he has advised us that responding to points raised in the IOPC report which, as we state, has not yet been officially released, could cause a risk of prejudicing proceedings at the inquest into Ms Santo’s death.
“The inquest has been opened and adjourned and proceedings are active, so we must be mindful of allowing the Coronial process to complete its fact-finding without influence or prejudice.
“A Domestic Homicide Review has been commissioned, which is a review of the circumstances in which the death of an adult has, or appears to have, resulted from violence, neglect or abuse from a person with whom they were related, had an intimate personal relationship, or with whom they shared a household, completed by an independent author.
“We will be more than happy to answer further questions as and when we can but our primary focus is ensuring that all available reviews, hearings, and forums that can look into the circumstances surrounding Ms Santo’s death are allowed to be undertaken without influence or prejudice.”