Police missed chance to prevent healthcare workers’ death at hands of ex, inquest hears

The family of a mother-of-five who was killed by her “obsessed” former partner have told an inquest that they believe police missed an opportunity to prevent her “tragic, soul-destroying” death.

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

Home Office pathologist Dr Basil Purdue told the inquest in Bournemouth that the 51-year-old died of neck compression and multiple stab wounds.

Later that day, her former partner of eight years, Steven Doughty, 54, was found dead at his home in Portland.

A separate inquest into his death heard that he took his own life by hanging.

In a statement read to the Bournemouth hearing, Ms Milnes’ family said: “All who knew her loved her. She had a passion for life and a wicked sense of humour.”

The hearing was told that Ms Milnes had called police on March 31 2021, complaining of harassment by Mr Doughty.

Her family said: “There would have been a significant cause for concern as it is in her nature to persevere and solve problems and difficulties independently.”

Coroner Rachael Griffin said the family’s belief was that the police call handlers missed opportunities to upgrade the classification of Ms Milnes’ complaint against Mr Doughty.

She said: “There were indicators, they say – that there were phrases used that should have been been noted to raise the log to a higher priority.”

She added that the family believes that if the police had then acted by providing “advice” to Mr Doughty, “this tragic and soul-destroying outcome” could have been prevented.

The family said Ms Milnes, a healthcare assistant, had previously separated from Mr Doughty three times before leaving him on February 25 2021, having started a new relationship with another man.

They said: “Steve would always pursue Sherrie to get her back, using phone calls, text messages, sending flowers and gifts.”

Ms Milnes’ daughter, Holly, said in a statement that Mr Doughty had been “continuously” messaging Ms Milnes and “dialling and redialling” her, and she had blocked him on her mother’s social media.

She added that she had seen Mr Doughty sitting in his car outside the home she shared with her mother because “he wanted to check she had gone to work”.

She said Mr Doughty had told her he had contacted the Samaritans because he was “not coping” with the break-up and a friend of Mr Doughty told the hearing that he was “broken and distraught”.

Detective Sergeant Richard Winn, of Dorset Police, told the hearing that Mr Doughty was seen on CCTV entering Ms Milnes’ home on the day she died and was there for about an hour.

The officer said analysis of blood discovered on Mr Doughty’s clothing found that he would have been kneeling over her when she was stabbed and DNA samples showed skin-to-skin contact between him and the deceased.

DS Winn added that Mr Doughty had recently bought an 8in (20cm) kitchen knife in a Wilko store, which had not been found after the fatal attack.

He said Mr Doughty had carried out internet research on suicide methods and left a note “asking for forgiveness” for the “shitstorm I have caused”.

He said Mr Doughty would have been charged with murder had he not died.

He added: “I think the intention was to get back together with Sherrie in his mindset and, because it was established that couldn’t happen, then if Steve couldn’t be in a relationship with Sherrie then no-one else could either.”

The inquest continues.

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