A report has found that a young mother from Peterborough murdered by her ex-husband could have been better protected by local agencies, but that a different course of action is unlikely to have saved her life.
Rimas Venclovas murdered 29-year-old Vitalija Baliutaviciene, originally from Lithuania, in August 2011. He then drove her body to Poland and dumped it in a shallow grave. Venclovas is now serving a life-sentence for Vitalija’s murder.
The Domestic Homicide Review, published today, highlights a number of issues including a failure to communicate by local agencies.
In July 2010, Venclovas attacked Vitalija and, as a result, became wanted by Cambridgeshire Police. However, officers failed to inform the UK Border Agency meaning that he was able to leave and return to the UK at least twice without being picked up by border control. On one occasion he was later picked up by Essex Police, and questioned by detectives in Peterborough.
The ex-couple’s son witnessed the July attack, meaning that the police should have referred the case to Children’s Services at Peterborough City Council. However, they failed to do so until after Venclovas attacked Vitalija for a second time, in February 2011.
After that attack, Vitalija went to her son’s school to tell them that her ex-husband was dangerous, and that he should not be allowed to collect her son from school. The school did not share this interaction with the relevant authorities, and simply told her that they could not enforce this request.
The report also details how after each of the two attacks, police referred the case to the Independent Domestic Violence Advocacy (IDVA) - a service that supports victims of domestic violence. However, an error in Vitalija’s recorded date of birth meant that, initially, the two attacks were treated as entirely unrelated. This was corrected within a few weeks.
A further break-down in communication occurred when, in March 2011, Vitalija’s son who was ten when she died, told a social worker that his father had threatened to kill his mother. However, the social worker did not refer the case on.
The report finds that had agencies and individuals passed on information when they should have, Vitalija could have been better protected from her violent ex-husband. However, it concludes that Rimas Venclovas was so determined to seriously harm his ex-wife, local agencies are unlikely to have been able to prevent her death.
Cambridgeshire Police say they have since made improvements, including training dedicated officers to deal with incidents of domestic abuse, and training regular staff to focus more on abuse, safeguarding and referriing on when appropriate. They also say that national changes this year to how the Police National Computer and UK Border Control communicate mean that wanted individuals will now be flagged up automatically at border controls.
Peterborough City Council say the social worker involved being given further trainin, and that the local IDVA service is now being run by Women's Aid - a national charity dedicated to ending domestic violence.