A coroner has ruled that the Met police missed five opportunities to save a vulnerable 17-year-old from an abusive relationship, before she died after falling on a knife during an altercation.
Katrina Makunova, 17, died outside a block of flats on Brisbane Street, Camberwell on July 12, 2018. An argument with her then-partner, Oluwaseyi Dada, had ended in her ‘falling on a knife’ concealed in her handbag during the confrontation, the court heard she was keeping in her handbag for protection.
The knife stabbed Katrina in the chest, leading to her death. Dada, 21, was later convicted of manslaughter and jailed for two years three months.
The report highlighted a ‘pattern of abuse’ Katrina had suffered at the hand of her ex-boyfriend, which included him ‘carrying and displaying a knife to control her’.
The report says this abuse and intimidation is what led to Katrina carrying the knife that would tragically lead to her death when she went to see Oluwaseyi.
Senior Coroner for the London Inner South jurisdiction Andrew Harris’ latest report highlights five instances where he says police should have been alerted to the abuse Katrina was suffering and responded accordingly, but failed to do so.
This is partly because the police were unaware of Katrina’s vulnerability as a victim of trauma, after they did not attend the Merton Child Protection Conference.
The highlighted instances in the report include failing to recognise the significance of Oluwaseyi stealing her phone, taking no safeguarding actions after Katrina described clear examples of coercion to the police, and failing to provide proper risk assessments after being called to her home multiple times in the months leading up to her death.
He said: “Whilst significant steps have been taken to recognise contextual abuse by all the organisations since the death, there remains a concern.”
“Those around Katrina, knew of her past and present association with gang members; yet this too never seems to have been investigated and identified by police as a risk factor.
“Evidence was heard from her brother and another witness that her fear of what harm he might do led her not to make a full disclosure of his controlling behaviour to the police.”
Harris also raised the question of whether the Met’s Child Safety Units are sufficiently staffed to correctly investigate these kinds of cases.
He called for the Met to use the expert advice of university academics on when gang affiliation and knife-carrying should be considered a risk.
Police have previously apologised for failings in the case. Last year, a police constable involved in the case was found guilty of gross misconduct for not filling out a mandatory safeguarding report after speaking to the teenager.
Commander Melanie Dales, the Met’s lead officer for public protection, said: “When completing risk assessments in domestic abuse cases, Met officers follow the nationally-recognised guidance, which does take into account the carrying of weapons and a question is included which asks whether the weapons or objects could cause harm to the person in question.
“We will engage positively with any evidence-based academic research to help further understand how knife-carrying and gang association are risk factors in domestic abuse as our priority is to tackle violence against women and girls. We want to learn from this case and protect Londoners further.
“The Met continually evaluates where to place its workforce. A review is ingoing and due to report later this year and is actively considering placing additional officers into Child Safety Units.”
The full list of Harris’ highlighted incidents of failures to respond appropriately by police is below:
“Incident 1: On February 6 2018 the significance of the theft of the phone which led to the perpetrator controlling Katrina’s communications was not recognised.
“Incident 2: On February 13 2018 police were called to Katrina’s work address. At the scene, she described, and the police identified, clear examples of coercion and controlling behaviour, but when the suspect was released from custody, police didn’t take any mitigating safeguarding actions. Oluwaseyi’s knife carrying history was also not recorded or questioned.
“Incident 3: On July 11 2018 police were called to Katrina’s home. The following were admitted failures of MPS officers: A failure to assess and manage risk; A failure to investigate the allegations of victim of domestic abuse; A failure to provide effective safeguarding.
“Incident 4: On June 23 2018 police were called to Katrina’s home. The following were admitted failures of MPS officers: A failure to acknowledge that there was a report of criminal allegations of harassment and record incident as a crime; A failure to properly assess and manage and record risk as misleading information was entered on the crime report; A failure to safeguard a child.
“Incident 5: On June 27 2018 Katrina and the perpetrator attended Walworth Police Station following a dispute. High case loads contributed to the delay in implementing Child Safety Unit supervisor directions. This incident wasn’t considered urgent, because it was viewed as an isolated incident. Met officers failed to conduct proper and diligent intelligence checks, to investigate allegation of domestic abuse, and to provide adequate safeguarding.”