Family question police actions before care worker died in suspected murder-suicide

The family of a mother-of-five who was killed in a suspected murder-suicide question whether her death could have been prevented if police had handled a call differently the day before she died, an inquest has heard.

Paramedics and police were called to a flat in Ranelagh Road (pictured), Weymouth, Dorset, on April 1 2021, where Sherrie Milnes was pronounced dead.

She had suffered multiple stab wounds and neck compression.

Later that day, Steven Doughty, 54, was found dead at his home in Portland. An inquest opening into his death heard he died of hanging.

Dorset Police confirmed the pair were known to each other.

A previous pre-inquest review was told that 51-year-old Ms Milnes had made a call to police on March 31 complaining of harassment by Mr Doughty.

A further hearing held on Friday was told that her family has raised questions over the conduct of the police in their statements.

Coroner Rachael Griffin said: “The main questions are about that call to Dorset Police on 31 March and how that was dealt with and whether a different dealing with that call would have made a difference.”

Ms Griffin said that at this stage there was “insufficient evidence” to suggest the actions of the police were a contributory factor in Ms Milnes’ death.

She added that she was not currently planning to engage a jury for the inquest as she felt the police action did not amount to a breach of Ms Milnes’ right to life under article two of the Human Rights Act, although she said this remained under review.

The death of Ms Milnes is being investigated by Dorset Police and the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC), as well as a domestic homicide review by the local authority.

Ms Griffin said: “The scope of the inquest will cover a little about Sherrie herself and will look at the background of the relationship between Mr Doughty and Sherrie.

“It will look at the events leading up to 1 April and the contact she had with police on 31 March and I will then look at what happened.

“The main period I will be looking at things from the call to police on March 31 to the tragic death of Sherrie and I will look at the cause of death.”

She added that the inquest would look at Dorset Police’s policies as well as “operational pressures” on the force on that day.

Ms Griffin adjourned the inquest for a full hearing to be held on June 7, with a separate inquest into the death of Mr Doughty set to be heard on June 2.

After her death, Ms Milnes’ family said in a statement that she was born in London and moved to Weymouth and Portland in her 20s where she worked as a health care assistant in care homes.

They said: “She was the most amazing mother of five children, and a nanny to four grandchildren whom she adored.”

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