Revealed: How ‘psychopath’ Joe Storey was free to kill ex-partner Kerri McAuley
- Credit: Archant
The catalogue of failings which meant a serial abuser was free to batter his ex-partner to death can today be revealed.
A domestic homicide review into the death of Kerri McAuley, murdered by Joe Storey in Norwich in January 2017, lifts the lid on a series of failings by organisations meant to protect her.
The 32-year-old from Southalls Way in north Norwich suffered 19 injuries to her head and face following an attack by Storey, who smeared her blood on his face and took a selfie before leaving her to die.
The review by the Norfolk County Community Safety Partnership found:
• Storey, now 28, violently attacked five previous girlfriends as far back as 2008, and at the time of the murder had three restraining orders to protect former partners
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• Ms McAuley, a mother-of-two, told police she feared Storey would kill her during an attack in July 2016. She later told a friend 'I know he is going to kill me'
• Storey was prosecuted for that attack, in which Ms McAuley escaped through a window, but prosecutors dropped the case
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• The probation service manager who took on Storey's case was 'overwhelmed' with work, failed to read his file and was not aware of the full background of domestic abuse
• A risk assessment by probation services in 2008, when Storey was 18, found he had 'the potential to inflict fatal harm upon his partner and unborn child'.
On Thursday the probation service admitted it did not have enough staff to do its job properly in this case.
And in the wake of the review, all agencies involved in the case said they accepted the findings and had already put some of the report's 32 recommendations in place to stop similar mistakes in the future.
•'Massive missed opportunities'
The 82-page report found that while staff 'did act' none of this protected Ms McAuley and the threat Storey posed 'was not recognised by the processes set up to protect her and deter him'.
Responding to the report, Ms McAuley's mother Lesley, said: 'I'm absolutely devastated. I feel that opportunities were missed. One of my main things is where was the communication between the authorities? That's quite a huge thing, the communication between probation, the police and Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), where was it to safeguard my daughter?
'I was reading the report but started to weep. I cried all the way through what I was reading, it's soul destroying.
'You put it all together and they've failed. There's just so much, so many failings, so many things that could've been done differently - it means my daughter could've been alive. I feel totally let down and totally disgusted.'
Ms McAuley's brother Rory said: 'The police, social services, probation - we believe these authorities are there to help us and will be there for us when we need them the most. But it could not be any more apparent than in my sister's case that she was failed.'
He added: 'Kerri was a victim of her perpetrator, of course. But was she already a victim before this? A victim of the system. These people should also be held accountable for their shortcomings which in this case have contributed to me losing my sister.'
The report found that Storey's 'true risk' might not have been recognised partly because when he was convicted of domestic abuse against past girlfriends he was charged with less serious crimes like common assault - rather than actual bodily harm.
The review said Storey's criminal convictions before he killed Ms McAuley 'do not adequately represent the risk he posed to his victims and the fear he instilled within them'.
Ms McAuley's uncle Steve Roberts, 54, said the report identified 'significant failings', adding: 'It's hard, but these are massive missed opportunities. It's unbelievable.'
The failure to share information between agencies was also criticised.
The report found that had Storey been charged and convicted when he attacked Ms McAuley in July 2016 'he MAY have received another prison sentence, this MAY have prevented the murder of Ms McAuley.'
It added that had he then been under the scrutiny of the Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conference (MAPPA) - a monthly meeting where professionals share information on high risk cases - it 'MAY have meant more cross-agency resources were alive to his potential and this MAY have had a deterrent effect'.
But ultimately the review found it would be 'wrong to blame any individual' for failings which led to Ms McAuley's death.
It said: 'There is only one person to blame for Ms McAuley's death; that is the perpetrator.'
The review has come up with 32 recommendations to prevent future tragedies.
Nationally, they include tougher prison sentences for serial domestic abusers and reviewing how Clare's Law is used to give victims information about their partners offending history.
The report also called on the Ministry of Justice to review staffing levels in the probation service.
It found that Storey's case officer was overworked with a caseload of 192pc - twice what it should have been.
•'Left to roam the streets, like the psychopath he was'
Wearing just her underwear, bloodied and beaten Kerri McAuley escaped through the window of her home.
The terrified mother-of-two seized her chance after enduring four hours of being attacked and locked away by her boyfriend Joe Storey.
She called 999 and for 22 minutes pleaded for help, telling the call handler about previous assaults for the first time and saying she was scared of further attacks.
All Joe Storey got for the vicious beating in July 2016 was a restraining order - just like ones he breached repeatedly against his previous partners. Six months later, Ms McAuley was murdered by Storey.
The domestic homicide review reveals how Storey had convictions for assaulting five previous girlfriends and was given three restraining orders against three ex-partners.
In 2008 the probation service had assessed Storey, then 18, as having 'the capacity to cause fatal harm' to his then partner and unborn child.
Seven years later Storey began dating Ms McAuley while under probation service supervision and subject to a restraining order following assaults on his previous girlfriend.
In July 2016 Ms McAuley, who had suffered previous assaults at Storey's hands, called police after escaping through her window. The attack was investigated by police and Storey arrested - but he was bailed.
Police said on Thursday that they bailed him after taking advice from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and they did not have enough evidence to charge him and keep him in custody.
Ms McAuley's family said Storey should have been in custody until the case came to court so he could not control her.
The review found that releasing Storey on bail without conditions was 'an opportunity that was missed to afford some level of control over his contact' with Ms McAuley.
She later decided not to give evidence in the case and had even said she was drunk at the time and could not be sure it was Storey who assaulted her.
However it was decided, because of the compelling nature of her 999 call, that the case would go ahead without her.
A copy of Ms McAuley's 999 call was received by the CPS from police on September 6 2016 but it was not served on the defence ahead of the trial on October 27 2016.
With the defence in the case not prepared to accept the call into evidence on the day of the trial the prosecutor decided it could not be relied upon.
The prosecutor decided that with Ms McAuley, who was not at court, saying she was not sure who assaulted her, the case was compromised. It was dropped, with Storey handed an 18-month restraining order.
A statement released by Ms McAuley's family, including mother Lesley and uncle Steve Roberts, said: 'The monster was arrested at her home and released by Norfolk Constabulary shortly after a 'no comment' statement.
'Given his previous history, the careless decision to release the monster rather than remand him showed little regard for Kerri's future safety and would prove to be a fatal error of judgement.
'At the monster's trial for this violent assault on Kerri, the CPS failed to secure and serve the readily available, compelling evidence that would have highly likely seen him return to prison and secure Kerri's safety.
'The careless, lackadaisical, can't-be-bothered preparation applied to this prosecution would prove to be fatal.'
Some of the family's biggest concerns are with the probation service.
Having said he had the capacity 'to cause fatal harm' to his then partner and unborn child in 2008, the family said the probation service should have been on notice about Storey's threat.
But failings meant Storey, who was released without supervision, was never properly monitored and failed to complete programmes designed to rehabilitate him.
At one point he was wrongly allocated to a Community Rehabilitation Company rather than National Probation Service, meaning he was assigned officers not trained for high-risk offenders.
The review found the probation service failed to share information with other agencies that could have protected the victim.
The offender manager - 'overwhelmed with other work' - who took on Storey's case failed to read his file and so was not aware of the full background of domestic abuse.
The manager relied on phone contact with Storey, focussing on his current work and accommodation circumstances rather than his victims.
Ms McAuley's mum said: 'He was just left to roam the streets like the psychopath he was. He was walking the streets from being 14 years old because he knew how he could get away with whatever he wanted to do.
'It's unbelievable that someone has supervised him and didn't look at his file and just spoke to him on a few occasions over the phone. He could say anything he wanted and they would just believe him.'
She added: 'It makes me feel physically sick that there was nothing there, no protection for my daughter or grandchildren. I feel the probation service and CPS failed Kerri.'
A key concern for Kerri McAuley's family was why, if Joe Storey had such a history of violence against former partners, did she not know.
The Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme, known as Clare's Law, was introduced in 2014 and is meant to provide information that could protect someone from being a victim of a domestic abuser.
Police decided that an application should be made but the disclosure can only be made by specialist officers and despite repeated attempts to contact Ms McAuley and tell her this did not happen.
Police are allowed, in certain circumstances, to disclose information to third parties and while a disclosure to her family was considered, it was deemed not to be lawful as Ms McAuley was able to make 'informed choices' - something her family has criticised.
A recommendation of the review is when a disclosure is pending, the police system should be updated so that any officer who goes into the record will see there is an outstanding disclosure and can contact specialist officers.
•What the authorities say
Chairman of the review panel Gary Goose said the case showed that systems in place to protect the vulnerable 'can still fail'.
At the start of Thursday's press conference Laura McGillivray, chair of the Norfolk County Community Safety Partnership, which commissioned the review, warned about government cuts.
'We can't carry on pretending anymore that public services are as resourced as they used to be,' she said. 'We're not.
'Public agencies will do their best of course to fulfil their public duties.'
But she said they were all suffering 'strain'.
Steve Johnson-Proctor, National Probation Service director for the region, admitted they did not have enough resource to do their job properly in this case.
But he added: 'We have worked extremely hard to improve immediate staffing levels.
'We will continue to drive forward improvements to our service to ensure we meet the high standards that we strive for and to help avoid cases like this from happening in the future.'
He said the service had now recruited 20 extra trainee officers in Norfolk and Suffolk with more starting in 2019.
'This was a horrific offence and we are truly sorry that our management of the case was not good enough,' a spokesman for the probation service said.
'Serious further offences like this are very rare but each one is taken extremely seriously and investigated fully, to make sure any mistakes are not repeated.
'We have accepted all of the recommendations in this DHR and have since recruited 20 trainee probation officers in Norfolk and Suffolk, ensuring that staff in the region will have more time for face-to-face contact with offenders.'
The CPS admitted it should have handled the prosecution of Storey for the attack on Ms McAuley in October 2016 differently.
Jenny Hopkins, Chief Crown Prosecutor, said the CPS had met with the McAuley family to explain why they didn't prosecute Storey for the attack.
She said extra training had been given to staff about prosecuting domestic abuse cases and about leading 'victimless prosecutions' where witnesses are reluctant to go to court.
Norfolk Police said it was committed to giving victims of domestic abuse 'the best possible support' and had carried out recommendations in the review around Clare's Law.
The report's author Christine Graham said she hoped the review showed that domestic abuse was taken seriously by agencies in the area and lessons had been learned from Ms McAuley's death.