Gracie Spinks inquest: Jury finds woman unlawfully killed by stalker Michael Sellers

Gracie Spinks was described by her family as a 'beautiful soul'.

A jury has formally returned a verdict of unlawful killing at an inquest into the death of a woman stabbed by her stalker.

Gracie Spinks, 23, was attacked by 35-year-old Michael Sellers as she tended her horse in Duckmanton, near Chesterfield, Derbyshire, on 18 June 2021.

Sellers' body was found a short distance away following his apparent suicide.

The 10 jurors had already been told by coroner Matthew Kewley that there was "no other explanation" than that Sellers had killed Miss Spinks, who was stabbed 10 times.

They were told when they retired on Wednesday that they must return a conclusion that she was unlawfully killed because of "overwhelming evidence".

The jury formally gave their unanimous verdict on Thursday afternoon.

Multiple failings already admitted by Derbyshire Police were referred to in the record of inquest filled in by the jurors, but they had been prevented by a coroner from deciding whether the failings had contributed to Ms Spinks’ death.

Referring to Sellers as "the supervisor", in their conclusion at Chesterfield Coroner’s Court, the foreman said: "It was the supervisor that killed Gracie."

The medical cause of death was given as a stab wound to the neck.

The inquest, which began on 30 October, had heard how Miss Spinks worked with Sellers at e-commerce company Xbite.

He had a history of harassing women and, after initially being on friendly terms, Miss Spinks told Sellers she did not want a relationship.

But he became increasingly "obsessed" with her, the inquest heard.

Miss Spinks reported Sellers to Derbyshire Constabulary for stalking in January of 2021 after he was seen loitering near her horse's stables.

But officers graded him as low risk.

Michael Sellers Credit: PA

In May 2021, a bag of weapons including knives, an axe, a hammer, Viagra tablets and a note saying "don’t lie" was found by a dog walker near where Miss Spinks was later killed, but this was also dismissed by police.

Several police officers have given evidence in the inquest, with one saying the weapons should clearly have been a concern.

Another told Miss Spinks' family he was "truly sorry" and said the force "should have done better".

Miss Spinks was described as a "beautiful soul" and an "amazing and unique person" in tributes from family and friends.

The jury were not asked to decide whether multiple failings admitted by police contributed to her death.

Before the verdict was returned, Derbyshire Constabulary admitted it still had work to do to improve how officers understand risk and deal with stalking concerns.

Det Supt Darren De’ath, who leads the force’s public protection team, said improvements had been made but the evidence heard at Ms Spinks’ inquest had provoked "some concerns" about the force’s progress.

Mr Kewley said it was "troubling" that officers involved in the case, who gave evidence, showed "no real appetite or impression that they had really changed their views" on how to assess risk.

Mr De’ath said the force had been inspected since the incident and found to have improved, but said: "We are in a completely different position to where we were in 2021, albeit I have to accept, listening to the officers giving their evidence, I still don’t believe we have achieved what we mean to achieve.

"I concur with your concerns. We have been meeting every evening with the chief constable which will continue long after this inquest which will work to make sure we get this right."

The coroner later said "the force is not quite there yet”, to which Mr De’ath replied: "No, it is not, sir."

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know.