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October 11th 2018

Andrew Petherbridge

Murder of Birmingham woman: Inquest concludes unlawful killing

Andrew Petherbridge

Andrew Petherbridge

Lawyer and Head of Civil Liberties

Murder of Birmingham woman: Inquest concludes unlawful killing

The jury inquest into death of murdered Birmingham woman, Jacqueline Oakes, has concluded that she was unlawfully killed and that the inappropriate decision to house her eventual murderer in the same accommodation contributed to her death.

The jury inquest into death of murdered Birmingham woman, Jacqueline Oakes, has concluded that she was unlawfully killed and that the inappropriate decision to house her eventual murderer in the same accommodation contributed to her death.

Jacqueline, 51, who had a long history of mental health issues, was found dead in an Edgbaston tower block in January 2014. She died from multiple blunt force injuries. Marcus Musgrove was found guilty of her murder and sentenced to a minimum of 18 years in July 2014.

Today at Birmingham Coroner’s Court, the Senior Coroner for Birmingham and Solihull, Louise Hunt, sitting with a jury concluded that the following factors contributed to Jacqueline’s death:

  • The inappropriate placement of Musgrove in the same accommodation as Jacqueline facilitated a relationship between the two.
  • The trial into Musgrove’s battery of Jacqueline being discontinued, allowing him to be released, after the court alleged they hadn’t received an application from the prosecution in a timely manner.
  • A combination of the escalation of events in January 2014, together with the failure to adequately safeguard Jacqueline.
  • Despite regular multi-agency meetings about Jacqueline, there were incidents of failure to share information and act upon information accordingly.

The Coroner also said she planned to issue a Prevention of Future Deaths recommendation to the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice over her concerns that highly dangerous offenders such as Musgrove can be released back into a community without any warning or notification.

Musgrove and Jacqueline first came into contact with one another in April 2013 when he was placed into the same supported accommodation as her. He had been asked to leave his previous accommodation because of his drug taking and abusive behaviour. Within 48 hours of Musgrove moving into her accommodation Jacqueline reported a physical and sexual assault by Musgrove.

For the next 10 months, a catalogue of verbal, physical and sexual abuse and harassment by Musgrove were reported by Jacqueline and her friends to West Midlands Police and various support services.

In June, Musgrove was charged with assault and harassment and refused bail for attempting to strangle Jacqueline. The CPS later withdrew the case against Musgrove, unaware of his violent history, and he was released back to the same accommodation.

Soon after, Jacqueline moved to new sheltered accommodation in the city, during which time Musgrove continued to assault her. A panic alarm was installed in her accommodation after one assault in September left her hospitalised. He was subsequently arrested and remanded into custody on charges of battery, but his trial was discontinued in November after Jacqueline also stated that she wanted to withdraw her statement which she had given to the Police.

In the run up to Christmas 2013, further reports of abuse and threatening behaviour were reported by Jacqueline’s friends and support workers.

On 7 January 2014, Jacqueline, who was by now staying with a friend in Edgbaston, reported being raped by Musgrove. He was subsequently arrested but he was released on bail under the condition that he did not approach Jacqueline. Within just over 24 hours police were notified that he had breached his bail when they received a 999 call from a friend of Jacqueline’s. He should have immediately been rearrested, but this didn’t happen until after Jacqueline’s body was found in the early hours of 14 January. She had been battered to death by Musgrove.

An IPCC investigation in 2017 found that Ms Oakes was let down by a raft of procedural errors and 19 police officers and staff were found to have a case to answer for misconduct.

Civil liberties and police action specialist Andrew Petherbridge of Hudgell Solicitors represented Jacqueline’s family at the inquest. He says: “Jacqueline’s family are extremely grateful to the coroner and the jury for their diligence in examining the failings that contributed to her untimely and tragic death. It’s hard for anyone to imagine the terror that Jaqueline must have felt during the last 10 months of her life.

“The only good that can come from this is that all the agencies and state bodies who came into contact with Jacqueline take responsibility for their failings and make lasting changes. In fact, Jacqueline’s case surely must be an urgent reminder to state bodies everywhere of their duty to protect the lives of those they are in contact with. After all, Jacqueline’s death was entirely avoidable.”

Counsel to the family was Kirsten Heaven of Garden Court Chambers.

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