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Wife shooting police criticised
Police have been criticised for their handling of events surrounding the attempted murder of a woman at work by her estranged husband.
Darren Williams, 43, burst into a hair salon in Newport, south Wales, in August last year and blasted his wife with a shotgun. Rachel Williams, 37, was hit in the knee and two customers were slightly injured in the attack.
The shooting triggered a six-hour manhunt by Gwent Police which ended when Williams was found dead at the nearby Brynglas woods. Six weeks later the couple's 16-year-old son Jack was discovered hanging in the same woodland.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) upheld four complaints against Gwent Police resulting from an investigation in the wake of the deaths. The force is being called on to improve the way it deals with domestic abuse cases as a result.
Issues were found with the system Gwent Police uses to deal with urgent calls. Calls with a domestic abuse element were not necessarily flagged up under the system and call handlers were left to interpret information. Lack of communication between different departments is also highlighted as a problem area within the force.
Police dealt with seven calls involving the couple between July 9 and August 18 2011, the day before the shooting. Mrs Williams had also previously visited her local police station twice where she was interviewed by officers.
Williams was arrested on August 6 for assaulting her and released on police bail. Four days later he was arrested for threatening to kill her. At the time of the second arrest he was charged with an earlier assault on his wife dating from July 9. He appeared before magistrates and was then released despite both the police and Crown Prosecution Service opposing the granting of bail. By then Mrs Williams had been assessed as being at high risk of significant harm.
Among the complaints upheld against Gwent Police is that police took too long to arrest Williams after a statement on July 25, 2011. The watchdog also found a detective constable was informed of potential bail breaches by Williams for which no action was taken.
A complaint that a detective constable linked to the case left her phone's voicemail on despite being at work was also upheld. And also upheld was a complaint that the detective constable had said it was inappropriate for other family members to call her.
As a result of the IPCC investigation, Gwent Police ruled two police constables and one sergeant should be subject to management action, and a police constable should be subject to management advice. A police sergeant retired during the IPCC investigation, although there was enough evidence gathered for there to be a case to answer for him. The force has also accepted all IPCC recommendations and suggestions for improvements.