Stephanie Davies, a client of ours had her case featured in the Daily Mail recently. Read the article below and download the official press release at the end of this article.
Senior coroner’s officer who warned serial killer could be behind murder suicides of at least two elderly couples is suing police after she was suspended and faced investigation for raising her concerns.
- Stephanie Davies wrote a report on the apparent murder-suicides of five couples.
- She was suspended from her role as a senior coroner after raising her concerns.
- Ms Davies has taken Cheshire Police to an Employment Appeals Tribunal.
A senior coroner’s officer who reviewed cases and warned a serial killer may be on the loose is suing police for suspending her after she raised the concerns. Stephanie Davies wrote a report on the apparent murder-suicides of five couples between 1996 and 2011, and formed the conclusion that at least two of the cases were in fact the murders of a serial killer. She gave a copy of her report to her employers – Cheshire Police – but after this they then suspended her before launching an investigation into Miss Davies herself. Now, she is suing them for detrimental treatment Following her ‘whistleblowing’, plus disability discrimination. A preliminary employment tribunal heard that Miss Davies showed her report, which included photographs, identifying details and a suggested suspect, to a series of external experts. She claimed these disclosures were an attempt to seek expert opinion on her findings and to help expose cases which potentially had the wrong verdict, and that she was suspended because of this.
However, the Liverpool hearing ruled that she should not have shown the reports to experts outside of her police force and that only handing it to Detective Superintendent Simon Blackwell, in Cheshire Police, was justified. This part of her case will now proceed to a full hearing, pending a further preliminary hearing. Miss Davies began working as a coroner’s officer for Cheshire Police in 2007 and was promoted to a senior position ten years later. In March 2018, Miss Davies started a PhD at the University of Liverpool, supported by her employers. It was heard that as part of her research, she had access to old coroner’s files provided that she: ‘Be mindful of how you/we use police/coroner investigations and the data control/share issues.’ Her predecessor, Christine Hurst, knew Miss Davies had an interest in ‘equivocal death’ – cases where the manner of death is deemed uncertain – and planned to do a PhD in that area.
The tribunal heard she told Miss Davies about two files which she had kept in her office because the verdicts in those cases had troubled her. Among the cases Miss Davies studied were two which were labelled murder-suicides, where the males killed the females and then themselves. She thought they might be unresolved double murder cases and said she found other cases which had some similarities. Miss Davies wrote a report in 2018 on this, which she showed to several experts, that included photographs, identifying details and a person she thought should be a suspect. In September of that year, Miss Davies gave the report to Cheshire Police’s Detective Chief Inspector Simon Blackwell.
Now a Detective Superintendent, he had been a policeman for over 25 years and was experienced in leading murder investigations. He read the report and found nothing to justify reinvestigating it, the tribunal heard. DSI Blackwell spoke to Miss Davies on the phone shortly after reading the report and told her this. The tribunal heard she was ’embarrassed’ and said she ‘would do more work’. The detective told the tribunal he was ‘sceptical’ about the use of language in the report, such as ‘victimology’. He said Miss Davies wasn’t a detective and had ‘looked for equivocal death and found it’. The tribunal concluded DSI Blackwell had ‘tried to be kind to a colleague’ by telling her ‘gently’ that her report ‘lacked rigour’.
Miss Davies told the hearing she sent the report to retired Detective Chief Inspector Simon Price, her predecessor Christine Hurst, a retired detective senior investigating officer with the Metropolitan Police, and Arthur Chancellor, an external forensic expert to get their ‘expert opinion’.
In cross-examination, Miss Davies told the tribunal: ‘Once I had consulted experts, I was confident enough to say that it was consistent with double murder.’ However, Cheshire Police launched an investigation into Miss Davies and suspended her, accusing her of sharing police information with homicide and forensic experts outside Cheshire Police without permission. She then brought her tribunal claim that she had suffered detriment as a result of giving the report to these external experts in an attempt to expose wrongdoing. Employment Judge Jane Aspinall said: ‘[Miss Davies] reasonably believed that the information she disclosed as tending to show a criminal offence or miscarriage of justice was true. ‘She acted and has continued to act, with utter conviction that she has detected double murders.
‘The failure was continuing in that the cases continued, and had continued since their verdicts in the late 1990s, to be classified as murder-suicides, not as [she] supposed, double murders. ‘This was likely to continue, on [her] thinking, until the matters were reinvestigated and possibly had their verdicts overturned. They were, as she saw it, long-standing wrongs that had not been put right. ‘[Miss Davies] shared information in breach of obligations of confidentiality. She accepted in evidence that she could have anonymised the photographs and not shared the identity of the victims but did not do so. ‘The Tribunal finds that this was irresponsible and unreasonable of her. ‘The Tribunal finds it was wholly irresponsible of her if she thought she could identify a suspect, to disclose that to anyone other than the police.’ On hearing the verdict, Miss Davies said: ‘All I ever wanted was for these cases to be re-investigated.
‘I am disappointed that the tribunal has decided that the evidence I submitted about a serious miscarriage of justice is not fully protected under UK whistleblower protection legislation. ‘But I am still pleased I had a chance to be heard in the Tribunal, that it was accepted that my concerns were exceptionally serious and that I was acting in the public interest. ‘I hope that notwithstanding this judgment Cheshire Police might still be persuaded to look again at the evidence I have presented.’