Three former police chiefs have said errors made in the search for two missing sisters was the result of bias, as the murdered women’s mother dismissed as “hollow” an apology for the blunders.
The mother of Bibaa Henry, 46, and Nicole Smallman, 27, found murdered in June 2020 in a London park, said her daughters’ friends and family were left to search themselves after the Metropolitan police failed to do so.
Mina Smallman said the partner of one of her daughters who found the body has been left haunted and maintained bias had been a factor despite a report from the police watchdog finding no evidence it was.
Britain’s biggest force offered the apology after a report from the Independent Office for Police Conduct found failings.
The two sisters, Henry, a senior social worker, and Smallman, a photographer, were murdered in the park where they had been celebrating the elder sibling’s birthday.
The next day police were called, but no physical searches took place. The following days the bodies were found stabbed to death.
Sue Fish, the former chief constable of Nottinghamshire, said on Tuesday that bias had been a factor: “I see plenty of bias. The IOPC report gives licence to continue to fail people of colour, and women of colour, into the future.”
“It does not have a finding of racism, it addresses things in performance terms and misses this everyday casual unconscious bias against people of colour and women.”
Former Met chief superintendent Dal Babu said the mother of the murdered sisters was right in insisting bias was a factor: “If this had been a white, middle class social worker, would police have dealt with it differently. I’m convinced they would have.”
Babu, who has defended white officers against racism claims when he thought they were unmerited, said an independent investigation was needed into how missing persons’ cases are handled.
Former Met chief superintendent Victor Olisa, a former head of diversity at the force, 말했다: “I think there is bias, I know the investigation of missing persons is not as professional as it ought to be.
“There is bias, the IOPC can’t find it.”
The IOPC identified that two police staff and one inspector performed poorly, and will not face a disciplinary hearing, but undergo action to improve their performance
A call handler referred to one of the missing women as a “suspect” and appeared dismissive when a friend of one of the sisters phoned asking for help, the watchdog found.
Mina Smallman said: “We’re not the only parties who suffered mental anguish at the hands of the Met police’s incompetent, reprehensible and blatant disregard of agreed procedures regarding missing persons.”
Smallman added: “The inspector on the second shift made erroneous assumptions about the whereabouts of our daughters. We’re also of the view that his unprofessional comments about Bibaa and Nicole’s picnic suggest racial profiling, misogyny or classism.”
The report has not yet been made public by the IOPC, which declined to comment on whether Smallman’s claims about the alleged comments made by the inspector were correct. The Met also did not comment. The Met said the inspector was working on a shift with 16 missing persons cases open, with his unit “under capacity by almost 50% during the Covid pandemic”.
Smallman said that police inaction led the family and friends to search themselves with harrowing consequences: “There were approximately 14 people – friends and family – involved in our own missing persons investigation, which started at approximately 4am on Saturday morning and ended with Nicole’s precious Adam discovering their bodies. This lasting image of his soulmate will forever remain in his mind’s eye.”
Smallman added the apology was not enough: “Sorry just won’t cut it. It’s too hollow … Sorry is something you say when you comprehend the wrong you have done and take full responsibility for it, demonstrating that by taking appropriate proportionate action – which the Met police have failed to do.”
The issues from the case are far from over for the Met. Two Met officers face criminal charges over the taking of photos at the scene where the sisters’ bodies were found murdered. They are scheduled to appear in court next week.
Danyal Hussein, 19, was found guilty of the sisters’ murder in July. He was said to have drawn up a “contract” in his own blood with a demon to sacrifice women in return for winning the lottery.