Holbrook stabbings: Refuge calls for public inquiry

Rachael Slack
Rachael Slack

Women’s charity Refuge is calling on the Government to open a public inquiry into the police and state response to domestic violence following the conculsion of Holbrook triple stabbing inquest.

Chief Executive Sandra Horley CBE, is urging people to sign a petition so that the charity can “discover the truth about what’s going wrong.”

Rachael Slack, 38, her former partner Andrew Cairns, 44, and their 23-month-old son Auden, died from multiple stab wounds.

They were found at a cottage in Well Yard in Holbrook on June 2, 2010, where Rachael lived with Auden.

The jury in the stabbings inquest decided that pregnant mum Rachael Slack and her toddler son, Auden, were unlawfully killed and her ex-partner, Andrew Cairns, who was found with them, took his own life.

Sandra Horley’s statement in full:

“This inquest has shone a spotlight on a number of failings made by Derbyshire Police that contributed to the deaths of Rachael Slack, 38, and her son Auden Slack, 23 months. I am shocked and saddened that the police did not do more to protect Rachael and Auden. Lessons must be learned from their tragic deaths – we must not let their killings be in vain.

“Despite making an assessment that Rachael and Auden were both at high risk of homicide, Derbyshire Police failed to discuss with Rachael adequate steps that could have been taken to address the risks to Auden. The police also failed to inform Rachael that they had assessed her and Auden as being at high risk of homicide. As a result, Rachael was denied the opportunity to make an informed choice about her and Auden’s safety.

“The reality is that Rachael and Auden’s case is not a one-off. Domestic violence is an epidemic – a blight on our society. Every week two women are killed by current or former partners. In many of these cases, women and children are let down by the police and other state agencies in the weeks and months leading up to their deaths. Numerous reports from the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) show evidence of police failure in domestic homicides. Some of these failures are in the most basic of police duties: responding to 999 calls, undertaking risk assessments, taking steps to protect vulnerable victims. Refuge supports 3,000 women and children on any given day and the feedback they give us confirms this bleak picture. Across the country, women and children are being failed by those agencies that have a duty to protect them.

“This is not good enough. That’s why Refuge is calling on the Government to open a public inquiry into the police and state response to domestic violence. We need to discover the truth about what’s going wrong. A public inquiry would not just look at individual cases or individual police forces – it would look at the national picture. It would connect the dots between a domestic homicide in Essex and a domestic homicide in Manchester. A public inquiry would be open and transparent, looking at the role played by all state agencies, including the CPS, health and social services – not just the police. It would also hear from a wide range of witnesses, including victims, families who have lost loved ones, and expert organisations like Refuge.

“A Stephen Lawrence style public inquiry would look at the police and state response to domestic violence from every angle. Refuge believes that women and children deserve no less.

“A public inquiry would help to identify what’s going wrong. It would help to identify why the death toll taken by domestic violence has been stuck at such an alarmingly high level for so long. It would help to identify what steps need to be taken to protect future women and children from harm. How many more women and children like Rachael and Auden must die before the police and other state agencies start taking this issue seriously? How many more lives will be lost before they act?”