Family's tears as detective tells inquest he is 'sorry' over Gracie Spinks death

Gracie Spinks

A senior detective has told the family of Gracie Spinks he is "truly sorry" for police failings before she was killed.

Det Supt Darren De’ath, who leads Derbyshire Constabulary’s public protection team, told an inquest at Chesterfield Coroner’s Court he "deeply regrets" what happened to her.

Gracie, 23, was stabbed to death as she tended to her horse in Duckmanton, Derbyshire, on 18 June 2021.

Her "obsessed" work colleague, Michael Sellers, 35, whom she had previously reported to the police for stalking her, is believed to have killed her before taking his own life.

Taking to the witness stand at Gracie's inquest on Thursday, Mr De’ath said he recognised his words were no consolation, but said the force "should have done better".

He said: “I want to give a formal apology to Gracie’s family and friends.

"I deeply regret what has happened, I deeply regret that we could and should have done better.

"I understand it is no consolation to yourselves but I am truly sorry."

He said he had attended the inquest every day to learn what the force could "do better" when handling stalking and harassment cases.

He said: "I’m really sorry it had to come to this for us to have this learning, perhaps we should have come to that conclusion without this happening, but sadly it didn’t.

"There is learning and there has been a lot of work done to make sure the learning has been embraced."

Mr De’ath said he was "appalled" at the way the force had "failed" to record and retain information after Gracie’s stalking report in February 2021, and dog walker Anna White’s report of a bag of weapons she found on a farm track the month before Gracie was killed.

He said: "I know whatever I say won’t make things easier, but please take that I am truly sorry."

The inquest had to take a break after his comments as Gracie’s mother and other family members became emotional.

Narita Bahra KC, representing Gracie’s family, said they were “disappointed and upset” with the apology, which they deemed “completely inappropriate” in the circumstances.

Earlier another detective told the inquest that the bag of weapons found weeks before Gracei's death should clearly have been treated with "concern".

The weapons, including an axe and a hammer, were discovered on 6 May 2021 on a farm track close to where she died.

The bag also contained the sexual stimulant Viagra and a note saying "Don't lie".

Anna White, who found the weapons, reported them to police, but officers dismissed them as bushcraft tools and treated them as lost property.

Ms White said she was "totally stunned" at the officers' lack of reaction to what she showed them.

Det Ch Insp Claudia Musson told Thursday's hearing that PC Jill Lee-Liggett and PC Ashley Downing – the two officers assigned to respond to Ms White’s 101 call about the bag – did not have the same amount of experience as she did.

But she said the collection of items were clearly a "concern".

Michael Sellers Credit: PA

She said: "They were weapons and there’s the obvious concerns about the note, but my concern was it was a bag of weapons, with Viagra, and that gives you sexual intent and a weapon to be used in violence. That was my take.

"I’m fully aware I am a detective of some years with the benefit of time and experience compared to the officers so I have to put myself in their shoes as much as I can, but I don’t think anyone who saw the items could reasonably argue they are not weapons that could cause harm."

She said it would have been "proportionate" for the officers to go to the location where Ms White had found the bag and to carry out house-to-house enquiries at nearby properties, including Blue Lodge Farm.

Explaining why, she said: "The rucksack is completely out of place in that location.

"I understand what the officers said in relation to bushcraft and I accept that an axe could mean people were chopping wood, but all those items together is a concern.

"You would make some enquiries about the items found. You have got to give some information to allow people to make an assessment but at the same time you don’t want to tell them everything.

"I would certainly have said 'We found a bag with possible weapons' and if they saw anything suspicious or if they had problems with anybody."

Det Ch Insp Musson said she would also have expected the officers who visited Ms White’s home to make notes.

The officers involved have already told the inquest they did not take notes because the bag was being treated as found property rather than being linked to a crime.

The inquest also heard from Ms White, who said she was "totally stunned at the lack of reaction" from the two officers about the bag, which she had taken back to her house after discovering it.

She said the pair were at her home for around 20 minutes and told her it would go to lost property rather than be investigated further, despite her concerns that the contents could be used to hurt someone.

She said: "The officers came into the kitchen, put gloves on, and opened the bag. I asked what would be done with it and I was told it would probably go to lost property.

"One of the officers mentioned it might be for geocaching or something and I remember thinking, 'No'.

"In my head at the time, I thought they would be able to find who the bag belonged to because of DNA on the water bottle in it and I was told no, that won’t happen.

"I think at the time, not knowing what was going to occur, I thought I was doing the right thing by taking it to the police."

The inquest continues.