Kellie Sutton – She must not have died in vain.
*Trigger Warning*: The video contained in this blog contains video and audio footage and descriptive information which some people may find extremely distressing. Please proceed with caution.
This is Kellie Sutton. She was a victim/survivor of domestic abuse and violence. She was found dead at the home she shared with her partner, Steven Gane, in Welwyn Garden City on the 23rd August 2017. Kellie was 30 years old and a mother of three children. An inquest which was held at the time, concluded that she had taken her own life. This ruling has now been overturned.
If you subscribe to my blog, and you live in the UK, you will no doubt have seen this case in the media recently. If you subscribe from another country outside the UK, you may not be familiar with the case.
Kellie’s family have fought for years to have the original inquest ruling overturned and it is thought that this is the first time an inquest has overturned an original ruling and returned a conclusion of unlawful killing after a woman has committed suicide following domestic abuse. This makes Kellie’s case ground breaking.
Kellie’s partner, Steven Gane, was given a prison sentence of four years and three months in 2018 – after Kellie’s death, for coercive and controlling behaviour, assault occasioning actual bodily harm and assault by beating.
At the new inquest failings by Hertfordshire Police were found, which may have contributed to Kellie’s death. Police were called to Kellie’s address on the 9th July 2017, which was just a short time before Kellie took her own life. A neighbour had called the police after being told by one of Kellie’s children that Steven was strangling their mother on the floor. The police, apparently, had not considered that coercive control was a possibility. In fact, the police had suggested to Steven Gane that they didn’t really want to take things further because it gave them a lot of paperwork to do!
The police appear to have completed a risk assessment and found Kellie to be a ‘standard’ risk! This is despite them talking to Kellie, who told the police that…..
- She was very frightened of her partner
- That he was very controlling and excessively jealous and aggressive
- Had been arrested before
The police did not speak with the neighbour who had reported the incident. Nor did they speak to or check up on Kellie’s children. They failed to see the importance of the fact that the initial report had been that Steven Gane had been strangling Kellie on the floor. Strangulation is a very high risk factor in determining further abuse and/or homicide in cases of domestic abuse and violence. The police appear to have treated the risk assessment as a tick box exercise when it should be used to give a broader understanding of someone’s risk. All of the above things would determine Kellie to be very high risk! Yet, the police missed all of these things.
Women who experience domestic abuse are three times more likely to commit suicide. In the first academic research of its kind, in the UK, conducted by Sally McManus, who is a health expert at the University of London, it has found very close links between what the World Health Organisation call ‘intimate partner violence’ (IPV) and suicidal ideation among women.
The ruling of this second inquest into Kellie’s death, which found that she had been unlawfully killed is a landmark case and a first in the UK. It means that the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) could re open the case and could charge Steven Gane with ‘Unlawful and Dangerous Act’ Manslaughter. This case certainly seems to fit the criteria for this charge. There is plenty of unlawfulness as it is clear that there was coercive and controlling behaviour, which is unlawful and to those who understand the risks of domestic abuse, the danger is very clear to see as well.
There are a few questions that come to my mind in relation to this:
- Will the CPS now look into this case further and perhaps re open it which will mean that this perpetrator will be held accountable for Kellie’s death?
- How much longer will the Police be apologising ‘after’ the fact? *The police have apologised for their failings in this case but will the officers in question be reprimanded for their failings?
- Will we – members of the public, ever be told if the above has happened?!
- How many more women will have to die before the many recent changes in law in relation to domestic abuse, actually work!?
It is depressing and infuriatingly frustrating. We can hope that Kellie’s death will not be in vain. The outcomes of this case and the abuse Kellie experienced which made her feel she could not go on living must now, surely mean that future women who take their own lives will get justice. That the families of these women will have closure.
That must now be Kellie’s legacy. Rest in Peace Kellie.
The following video is about this case. It contains video footage and information which some people may find extremely triggering and distressing. If you decide to watch it, please do so with caution.