Police mistakes over stabbing death

A spelling error on a police computer meant domestic abuse was not handled properly by police shortly before a woman was murdered.

Live updates

Full Report: Police mistakes over stabbing death

A simple spelling mistake on a computer database meant police missed crucial details about a man's violent past, just hours before he killed his partner.

Sarah Gosling was stabbed to death in Newcastle earlier this year. Now, the police watchdog has criticised mistakes by Northumbria police, which it says had "profound consequences."

You can see the full report from Ben Chapman below.


Police respond to IPCC report

Northumbria Police have responded to criticisms over their handling of an incident of domestic abuse shortly before a woman was murdered by her partner.

"Our thoughts continue to be with the family and friends of Sarah Gosling following her murder.

"The officers who attended on the evening of February 25 were called to a report of a neighbourhood dispute. Ms Gosling was calm and did not make any complaint of assault, which she had done in the past. The officers also spoke to Ian Hope separately. Even if the officers had been aware of the domestic abuse history, there was still no reasonable basis to arrest Hope given the circumstances the officers faced."

– Supt Steve Wade, Northumbria Police

"Special attention has been given to extra training for officers around domestic abuse to ensure they recognise potential signs, even if it is not immediately obvious or is not the reason they have been called out. "There have been changes to the force computer system so the addresses of all high risk perpetrators and victims are 'flagged' so anyone attending an incident can immediately see any domestic violence history attached to an address and not just to an individual.

"Clearly there were lessons to be learned and we have taken every step we can to avoid a repeat of this incident."

– Supt Steve Wade, Northumbria Police

Officers 'missed opportunity' before domestic abuse murder

The Independent Police Complaints Commission has criticised two officers who responded to a disturbance at a house, two hours before a woman was murdered by her partner.

Ian Hope, 53, stabbed his partner, Sarah Gosling, 41, to death in Lemington, Newcastle, in February.

Errors on the police computer meant a history of domestic abuse in their relationship wasn't attached to his address.

But the IPCC found two officers who attended the house on the night of the murder did not investigate thoroughly. They did not ask for Mr Hope's name and did not run a computer check on him.

If they had, his abusive past would have been linked to him.

"The lack of information undoubtedly dictated a certain mindset for the officers on that occasion and as a result they only identified the incident as being one of anti-social behaviour. This possibly resulted in their lack of diligence in making their enquiries. Tragically that specific incident was a precursor to Ms Gosling's murder.

"Although we can say there was a missed opportunity, we cannot speculate that if the officers had the information about the couple's history they would have identified an ongoing abuse situation and prevented the murder.”

– Nicholas Long, IPCC Commissioner

Spelling error meant police failed to prevent woman's murder

A spelling error on a police computer contributed to officers missing signs of domestic abuse shortly before a woman was murdered by her partner.

Sarah Gosling, 41, was stabbed to death by Ian Hope, 53, at their home in Lemington in February. He received a life sentence for her murder.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission found 'organisational and individual errors' in how Northumbria Police dealt with the case.

The force was aware of a history of domestic abuse in the relationship, but Mr Hope's Tewkesbury Road address had been mis-spelled when entered into the computer.

There was therefore no record of the couple's history when officers visited the house on the evening of the murder after reports of shouting. They treated the incident as anti-social behaviour. Two hours later, Hope stabbed Miss Gosling to death.

"It is clear that Northumbria Police were aware of the abuse and had been involved in measures with partner agencies to try to tackle it.

"It is therefore tragic that such an apparently simple error of misspelling a street name could undermine the positive work done by the police force and result in two officers not having the relevant information that might have assisted them to deal with one specific incident differently."

– Nicholas Long, IPCC Commissioner


Back to top

Latest ITV News reports