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Gracie Spinks inquest: Police officer who closed stalking probe into obsessed ex-colleague who ‘stabbed model to death in murder-suicide’ admits ‘errors’ were made

A police officer who closed the stalking investigation into Gracie Spinks’ suspected killer has admitted there were ‘errors’ in his decision to halt the case, an inquest has heard. 

Ms Spinks, 23, reported Michael Sellers to Derbyshire Police in February 2021 after continued unwanted attention and an incident where he was seen waiting in a lay-by near where her horse was stabled in January that year. 

Sellers is believed to have stabbed Ms Spinks 10 times as she tended her horse at Blue Lodge Farm in Duckmanton, Derbyshire, months later on June 18 2021, before taking his own life. 

Sergeant Matthew Adams, who supervised Pc Sarah Parker, the officer who initially investigated the case, gave evidence at day five of the inquest into the death of Ms Spinks at Chesterfield Crown Court on Monday. 

He told the court he had not been directly line-managing the officer at the time and had known nothing about the stalking investigation until it was sent to him by Pc Parker on February 18 2021 to close. 

Gracie Spinks, 23, was discovered dead in a field in the picturesque village of Duckmanton, Derbyshire, on June 18, 2021 Gracie Spinks, 23, was discovered dead in a field in the picturesque village of Duckmanton, Derbyshire, on June 18, 2021

 Gracie Spinks, 23, was discovered dead in a field in the picturesque village of Duckmanton, Derbyshire, on June 18, 2021

The keen horse rider had suffered 10 stab wounds during a brutal attack believed to have been inflicted by 35-year-old 'weirdo' Michael Sellers The keen horse rider had suffered 10 stab wounds during a brutal attack believed to have been inflicted by 35-year-old 'weirdo' Michael Sellers

The keen horse rider had suffered 10 stab wounds during a brutal attack believed to have been inflicted by 35-year-old ‘weirdo’ Michael Sellers

Michael Sellers, 35, is believed to have killed Ms Spinks before then taking his own life Michael Sellers, 35, is believed to have killed Ms Spinks before then taking his own life

Michael Sellers, 35, is believed to have killed Ms Spinks before then taking his own life

Pc Parker told the coroner’s court last week that Sellers was given only ‘words of advice’ as Ms Spinks did not support a prosecution. 

Sellers had been deemed a ‘standard’ risk because he had not made threats of violence and he was not known to the force previously. 

Sgt Adams, who has been with Derbyshire Constabulary for 23 years, said he had a verbal conversation with Pc Parker about the case before he closed it where they discussed the risk Sellers posed to Ms Spinks, but admitted it was an ‘error’ that this was not written down anywhere. 

The sergeant accepted that the crime report written up by Pc Parker that he had based his decision to close the investigation on was ‘not very good’ as it lacked detail, and agreed that the officer had ‘failed’ in her duties to ‘record, retain and reveal’ material. 

He also told the court that ‘in hindsight’, a disciplinary file compiled by the e-commerce firm xbite, where Sellers and Ms Spinks worked together, on the apparent killer’s behaviour towards her should have been requested by the police as part of the investigation. 

He said: ‘I wish we had got that file at the time, but without evidence from Gracie it wouldn’t really have progressed any further. I didn’t think it was proportionate. ‘Perhaps we would have got him in for a formal interview and progressed things from there. 

‘I’m not saying it wouldn’t have changed things, I think it would if we had got him in for interview. 

‘But when Gracie had reported it there had been nothing from Sellers for a month, there had been no contact, she had blocked him on social media.’ 

Ms Spinks's body was discovered by a woman who called 999 at 8.13am on June 18 2021 Ms Spinks's body was discovered by a woman who called 999 at 8.13am on June 18 2021

Ms Spinks’s body was discovered by a woman who called 999 at 8.13am on June 18 2021

Ms Spinks reported Sellers to Derbyshire Police in February 2021 after continued unwanted attention Ms Spinks reported Sellers to Derbyshire Police in February 2021 after continued unwanted attention

Ms Spinks reported Sellers to Derbyshire Police in February 2021 after continued unwanted attention 

When asked by coroner Matthew Kewley how he was satisfied that the risk Sellers posed to Ms Spinks had been considered, Sgt Adams said: ‘I did have a verbal conversation with Pc Parker which was not recorded and that is an error on my part. 

‘She discussed safeguarding with Gracie and we felt the risk was relatively low, because there had been no threats or violence. 

‘I did speak to Pc Parker before closing the case and we discussed everything around the case, we discussed risk, but it was not documented.’ 

When asked by the coroner if he was not ‘concerned’ at the lack of detail in Pc Parker’s report, Sgt Adams said: ‘I was aware that Sellers had been spoken to regarding his behaviour and that’s all I needed to know at that point. 

‘I was aware Pc Parker had that conversation on bodyworn camera but the footage wasn’t downloaded because she went off sick. 

‘At the time, I had this verbal conversation with Pc Parker but it’s not documented and I can only apologise for that.’ 

When asked by the coroner if ‘words of advice’ were appropriate, Sgt Adams said it would have been difficult to do anything else because Ms Spinks was not supportive of further action. 

He said: ‘Gracie didn’t want him speaking to – we’re victim-led and where a victim isn’t supportive, we either do nothing or do something positive and in my view, speaking to him was the right thing to do at that point. 

Gracie Spinks had refused to pursue a romantic relationship with Sellers in December 2020 Gracie Spinks had refused to pursue a romantic relationship with Sellers in December 2020

Gracie Spinks had refused to pursue a romantic relationship with Sellers in December 2020

‘He needed to be told what he was doing wasn’t acceptable as opposed to doing nothing.

‘There had been no threats or violence offered, we had no reason to believe speaking to him wasn’t the right thing to do. 

‘If it came to a point where he made further contact, he could have used the excuse that he didn’t know it was harassment if he hadn’t been spoken to.’ 

The sergeant also said it would have been ‘very difficult’ to obtain a protection order without evidence from Ms Spinks, but he admitted, when asked by Narita Bahra KC, representing Ms Spinks’ family, that he was unaware he may have been able to get an interim stalking order without her consent. 

Sgt Adams said he felt it was ‘fine’ to close the investigation based on the information he had at the time and added that he believed all ‘proportionate lines of enquiry’ had been made. 

A rucksack and weapons found inside it have been shown to a jury at the inquest.

The brown backpack, which contained knives, an axe, Viagra tablets and a handwritten note saying ‘Do not lie’, was discovered by a member of the public on a farm track on May 6 2021 – weeks before 23-year-old Ms Spinks was fatally stabbed.

The bag and its contents, including the weapons and a black hooded top and tracksuit bottoms, were shown to the jury at Chesterfield Coroner’s Court by Detective Constable Denise Sandall, from Derbyshire Constabulary, on day five of the inquest.

The 11 jury members were also played the audio of the phone call the member of public, Anna White, made to the police after discovering the backpack.

Ms White told the call handler she had come across the bag on the track while out walking her dog at around 5.30pm and called the police when she returned home at 6.30pm.

She said: ‘I found a bag and I’m concerned about what I’ve found… It was just on the grass but I didn’t notice it on the way there. It weren’t  hidden or anything, it was just there.’

Ms White described the contents to the call handler, who asked her if there was any blood on any of the weapons.

She responded: ‘I’ve not inspected it, but I don’t think so. It was the note saying ‘Don’t lie’ that made me think ‘Oh my god’.’

The court heard that analysis of Sellers’ bank statements had shown the 35-year-old purchased three knives online on March 11 2021, which matched the description of those found in the backpack.

On May 6, the day the rucksack was found and taken away by Ms White, Sellers had again gone online and spent £471 on four more knives.

DC Sandell also told the inquest that a black holdall – matching the description of one Sellers was seen on CCTV putting into his car at his home in Sheffield – was found at the scene of Ms Spinks’ killing.

The contents included the keys to Sellers’ car, a baseball cap, glasses, a handwritten note saying ‘Don’t lie’, a printed quote from an American comedian, a piece of rope, a hammer, duct tape, a roll of black bin bags, and a small can of beer, although DC Sandall said Sellers is not believed to have drunk any alcohol.

The officer also told the inquest that Sellers was not known to the police and had no previous convictions.

She said: ‘He was just known as a bit of a weirdo, a bit of a creep, but there were no threats of violence or anything like that.’

The inquest continues. 

Crime

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