Police apologise to family of murdered girl over ‘significant opportunities’ missed
A police force has apologised to the family of a murdered young woman after a watchdog found investigators missed “significant opportunities” to catch her killer.
Becky Godden-Edwards was strangled to death by sadistic cabbie Chris Halliwell, 58, in Swindon, Wiltshire, in 2003.
The killer led a detective to her body in a field off the M5 eight years later after being arrested for the murder of office worker Sian O’Callaghan, 22.
But a judge ruled the confession to Becky’s murder breached police rules and was inadmissible, and her case was initially dropped in 2012 while Halliwell was convicted of Sian’s murder.
An investigation into Wiltshire Police’s handling of the case by the Independent Office for Police Conduct found there were several points when a conviction could have been brought about.
Tireless campaigning by Becky’s mum Karen Edwards finally ended in the killer’s 2016 prosecution for her murder and he was handed a whole-life sentence.
But the case could have continued in 2012 if officers had followed up leads and told prosecutors about evidence it was sitting on, the IOPC has found.
Chief Constable Kier Pritchard faces disciplinary action over his role in the botched probe.
He released a statement on Friday in light of the findings in which he said “I fully accept” the report and wanted to take the opportunity to “personally apologise” to Becky’s loved ones.
During the investigation between 2012 and 2014, Mr Pritchard was Head of Protective Services, as a Detective Chief Superintendent in the force.
He explained his role included the overall responsibility for all serious and major crime investigations.
He went on: “This has certainly been an opportunity for deep personal reflection for me. I acknowledge that there was confusion at the time concerning the oversight of the investigation into Becky’s murder, as highlighted within the IOPC investigation.
“This arose, in part, due to the major crime collaboration being in its infancy. For that, I am really sorry.
“The murder investigation was a complex case with very unique circumstances. We always strove to deliver justice for Becky’s family, further to the tragic and shocking loss of their much loved daughter. “
He said he had commissioned an independent major crime review following the case which ultimately led to Christopher Halliwell’s conviction for Becky’s murder.
However, he went on: “But all that said, I fully appreciate the grief and despair that the delay in the investigation has had on Becky’s family as they have rightly sought to have justice delivered.
“Whilst justice was achieved, it is with deep regret that justice was delayed for Becky’s family.
“It is of personal regret to me that there were missed opportunities identified during the investigation and I take full responsibility for any individual shortcomings.
“As Chief Constable of the Force, I fully accept the findings and recommendations outlined in today’s published findings from the IOPC.
“I am very sorry for the impact that failures in this case have had on Becky’s family.”
Then-Deputy Chief Constable Mike Veale claimed in 2016 that officers had worked “tirelessly” on Becky’s case from the moment the charges were dropped in 2012.
But no senior investigating officer was appointed to the case for over a year, found Det Supt Amanda Bell who led the IOPC probe.
And when Det Insp Matt Davey was appointed the “investigation failed to progress”, it was found. Mr Davey is quoted as saying he thought he was just asked to “babysit the inquiry”.
Because Mr Davey and Mr Veale have both retired, neither could be found to have a case to answer for misconduct, only gross misconduct.
They were found to have no such case to answer.
The IOPC found Mr Pritchard had a case to answer for three counts of misconduct.
He will receive “management action” for failing to ensure a proper investigation took place prior to 2014, appointing an inexperienced officer to lead the probe after leaving the position vacant for 16 months, and failing to carry out reviews.
The IOPC also found systemic failings at Wiltshire Police, which is already under special measures.
An independent review is now being set up into unsolved murders linked to Halliwell.