Gracie Spinks: Sergeant admits 'errors' in stalking probe into Michael Sellers, inquest told

Gracie Spinks
Gracie Spinks was 23 when she died.

The police officer who closed an investigation into an alleged stalker before his victim was found stabbed to death has admitted "errors" in the case, an inquest has heard.

Sgt Matthew Adams said the crime report written by a lower ranking officer into Michael Sellers was "not very good".

Sellers, 35, is believed to have stabbed 23-year-old Gracie Spinks to death as she tended her horse at Blue Lodge Farm in Duckmanton, near Chesterfield, on 18 June 2021, before taking his own life.

An inquest at Chesterfield Coroner's Court has heard Ms Spinks reported him to Derbyshire Police for harassing her four months earlier.

Sgt Matthew Adams, who supervised PC Sarah Parker, the officer who initially investigated the case, gave evidence on the fifth day of the inquest at Chesterfield Coroner's Court.

He told the court he was not directly line-managing the officer at the time because the pandemic had seen a number of officers moved over to the response team.

He said he knew nothing about the stalking investigation until it was sent to him by PC Parker on February 18 2021 to close.

PC Parker told the coroner’s court last week that Sellers was given only "words of advice" as Ms Spinks did not support a prosecution.

Sellers had been deemed a “standard” risk because he had not made threats of violence and he was not known to the force previously.

Sgt Adams said he had a conversation with PC Parker about the case before he closed it where they discussed the risk Sellers posed to Ms Spinks, but admitted it was an "error" that this was not written down anywhere.

The sergeant accepted that the crime report written up by PC Parker was "not very good" as it lacked detail, and agreed that the officer had "failed" in her duties to "record, retain and reveal" material.

He also told the court that "in hindsight", a disciplinary file on Sellers compiled by the e-commerce firm xbite, where he worked with Ms Spinks, should have been requested as part of the investigation.

He said: “I wish we had got that file at the time, but without evidence from Gracie it wouldn’t really have progressed any further. I didn’t think it was proportionate.

“Perhaps we would have got him in for a formal interview and progressed things from there.

“I’m not saying it wouldn’t have changed things, I think it would if we had got him in for interview.

“But when Gracie had reported it there had been nothing from Sellers for a month, there had been no contact, she had blocked him on social media.”

Michael Sellers, the suspected killer of Gracie Spinks Credit: PA

When asked by coroner Matthew Kewley how he was satisfied that the risk Sellers posed to Ms Spinks had been considered, Sgt Adams said: “I did have a verbal conversation with PC Parker which was not recorded and that is an error on my part.

“She discussed safeguarding with Gracie and we felt the risk was relatively low, because there had been no threats or violence.

“I did speak to PC Parker before closing the case and we discussed everything around the case, we discussed risk, but it was not documented.”

When asked by the coroner if he was not “concerned” at the lack of detail in PC Parker’s report, Sgt Adams said: “I was aware that Sellers had been spoken to regarding his behaviour and that’s all I needed to know at that point.

“I was aware PC Parker had that conversation on bodyworn camera but the footage wasn’t downloaded because she went off sick.

“At the time, I had this verbal conversation with PC Parker but it’s not documented and I can only apologise for that.”

When asked by the coroner if “words of advice” were appropriate, Sgt Adams said it would have been difficult to do anything else because Ms Spinks was not supportive of further action.

He said: “Gracie didn’t want him speaking to – we’re victim-led and where a victim isn’t supportive, we either do nothing or do something positive and in my view, speaking to him was the right thing to do at that point.

“He needed to be told what he was doing wasn’t acceptable as opposed to doing nothing.

“There had been no threats or violence offered, we had no reason to believe speaking to him wasn’t the right thing to do.

“If it came to a point where he made further contact, he could have used the excuse that he didn’t know it was harassment if he hadn’t been spoken to.”

The sergeant also said it would have been “very difficult” to obtain a protection order without evidence from Ms Spinks, but he admitted, when asked by Narita Bahra KC, representing Ms Spinks’ family, that he was unaware he may have been able to get an interim stalking order without her consent.

Sgt Adams said he felt it was “fine” to close the investigation based on the information he had at the time and added that he believed all “proportionate lines of enquiry” had been made.

The inquest continues.