The Metropolitan Police will apologise to the family of two murdered sisters for its response when they were reported missing which was “below the standard that it should have been”.
Nicole Smallman, 27, and Bibaa Henry, 46, were stabbed to death in Fryent Country Park in Wembley, north London, last June, while out celebrating a birthday.
The Met said it agreed with the findings of a report by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) that found the level of service provided over the weekend when they went missing was below the standard that it should have been.
The force said no misconduct was found by an officer and two members of police staff but there will be action taken over their performance, which was found to be inadequate.
There was no suggestion racial bias played any part in how the missing persons reports were dealt with, it added.
Smallman said the taking of the photos, which showed the faces of her daughters, “dehumanised” her children and she feared that they could be posted on the internet: “They were nothing to them and what’s worse, they sent them on to members of the public.”
Met Commissioner Cressida Dick said: “My thoughts and deepest sympathies are with the family and friends of Nicole and Bibaa for their tragic losses.
“The way we responded to information that Nicole and Bibaa were missing that weekend was below the standard we should have achieved and compounded the distress felt by their loved ones.
“While we know that very sadly Nicola and Bibaa had been murdered in the early hours of Saturday June 6 2020, before they were reported missing, if we had responded better we may have saved their friends and family immeasurable pain.
“I am very sorry that the level of service we provided fell short.
“We have contacted the family to ask if they will allow me or, if they prefer, another senior officer to visit them at a time that is right to apologise in person.”
The IOPC investigation found that the inspector closed the police logs after receiving information about the sisters’ possible whereabouts from a family member, but that information was “inaccurately” recorded by a communications supervisor.
This meant that missing persons inquiries for both women were not progressed properly.
As a result of the IOPC investigation, an inspector, from the North West Command, and a member of police staff, a communications supervisor attached to Met Command and Control at Lambeth, must undertake “unsatisfactory performance procedures”, the Met said.
They will both attend formal meetings to discuss their performance and appropriate action, while a second member of police staff, a call handler based at Met Command and Control at Hendon, will receive “management action”, meaning they will have a performance discussion with their line manager around what they can learn from the case and how they can improve.
The inspector told the investigation that this had been one of “the most challenging shifts of his career” with 16 missing persons reports open and the North West Command Unit under capacity by almost 50 per cent due to the ongoing pandemic.
The Met said following the investigation several members of staff must subsequently undertake “unsatisfactory performance procedures.”
The IOPC investigation had also considered whether the force’s response had been affected by the sisters’ ethnicity, the Met added.
“After a comprehensive examination of police records, no evidence was found of stereotyping or biased assumptions based on the sisters’ race or where they lived,” it said.
“The IOPC also recommended we review the processes and separate computer systems used by different call handlers, and consider whether further training should be provided to ensure all fully understand how systems operate that they might not use as frequently.
“We have already addressed this recommendation by producing an enhanced training information pack for all call operators.”
In August, family and friends of the sisters staged at a vigil at the scene of the incident on what would have been Ms Smallman’s 29th birthday.
Large crowds lit candles and laid flowers to honour all women lost to male violence.
PC Deniz Jaffer, 47, and PC Jamie Lewis, 32, are charged with misconduct in public office while they were guarding the area where sisters Nicole Smallman and Bibaa Henry had been stabbed to death.
It is said they entered the crime scene in Fryent Country Park “without authorisation”, shared information with members of the public over WhatsApp, and took unauthorised pictures.
Their mother Mina Smallman had criticised the “toxic culture” in the Met.
In an interview with the BBC, she said: “If ever we needed an example of how toxic it has become, those police officers felt so safe, so untouchable, that they felt they could take photographs of dead black girls and send them on.
“It speaks volumes of the ethos that runs through the Metropolitan police.”
Danyal Hussein, 19, stabbed Bibaa eight times and Nicole 28 times in the horrific and unprovoked attack.
On July 6 at the Old Bailey he was found guilty of murdering the sisters having agreed with a demon to ‘sacrifice women’ in return for winning the lottery.