South Yorkshire murder inquiries: County hit by four killings in week homicide prevention report is published
A homicide prevention report has been published at the end of a tragic week in South Yorkshire, during which four murder inquiries were launched.
Three men were stabbed to death in separate incidents in Sheffield, Doncaster and Barnsley between Saturday, August 5 and Wednesday, August 9, while a fourth person died on Friday, August 11, two days after being found at a property in Sheffield with a head injury. None of the incidents is believed to be linked.
A national homicide prevention report, looking at how police forces around the country are working to prevent killings, was published on Friday, August 11, by His Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services.
South Yorkshire Police praised for domestic violence action
It concluded that while most police forces 'effectively identify patterns and causes' of homicide, and allocate the right resources to prevent it, there is 'too much inconsistency in how forces tackle the issue.
There was praise in the report for South Yorkshire Police's use of the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme (DVDS), which allows the police to disclose information about someone's history of domestic abuse or violence - a tool the authors said they were not confident all forces were employing effectively to protect people.
The report also noted how South Yorkshire Police, along with West Yorkshire Police, had been graded 'outstanding' for preventing crime in the inspectorate's PEEL inspection of 2021/22. It recognised too how South Yorkshire Police used a matrix to assess what risk potentially dangerous people (PDPs) posed to the public, enabling officers to prioritise resources on those who are more likely to commit a homicide.
Nationally, the inspectorate said it had found several examples of good practice but raised concerns about the way data is collected to help the Home Office and police forces better understand patterns of homicide and its causes.
The report also found that most forces were failing to quickly identify lessons following killings, and that when recommendations were made they often weren't communicated effectively to frontline staff. Another concern was that forces weren't communicating effectively with young people via social media, which the authors said 'may be increasing fear of crime unnecessarily among older people.
'Vital that police forces and partners work together'
Andy Cooke, His Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary, said: "It's encouraging to see the examples of good practice happening across forces in the prevention of homicide. However, for all the positives, homicide prevention is hindered by the lack of consistency in each force's approach.
"When dealing with such a serious and devastating crime as homicide, it is absolutely vital that forces and partner agencies work closely and effectively together."
Responding to the report, South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Alan Billings said: "A range of factors can lead to homicide, including domestic abuse, organised crime, drug and alcohol abuse and gang violence.
"It's vital that police forces understand the picture clearly in their area, as every county will have different challenges and demographics."
Son killed parents after mental health services failed to tell police about threats to kill
The report includes two case studies, one of which appears to relate to the tragic case of James Andrews, known as Duncan, who admitted killing his elderly parents at their home in Totley, Sheffield.
The anonymised case study describes how a couple were killed in their home by their adult son, who had been staying with them. It states that neither the victims nor their son had previously come to the notice of police but the son had a history of mental ill health and was known to mental health services.
In 2021, the case study states, the man's mother contacted community health services as her son was saying he wanted to kill someone. He was taken to A&E and subsequently referred for home treatment.
The case study states: "He later self-referred due to further mental health issues but that crisis team didn't accept the referral, despite him being described as angry, lonely, paranoid and making staff feel uncomfortable.
"The last contact mental health services had with the son was in October 2022 after he had been seen by his GP. The crisis team sent him a letter to enquire if he still wanted to engage with them. He didn’t respond.
"Shortly after, he killed his parents. Mental health services only shared the son’s medical history with the police after the homicide."
The report notes that it is unclear whether police could have prevented the double killing had they been informed.