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Home   Thanet   News   Article

Judge Philip Statman criticises police handling of calls made by Anne-Marie Birch in days before killing by Lee Birch in Broadstairs

14 April 2014
by KentOnline reporter

A judge has criticised the police handling of a domestic violence case - which ended in a husband murdering his wife by strangling her with a length of rope.

Lee Birch is behind bars today for life - with a minimum sentence of 25 years - after he admitted killing his estranged wife Anne-Marie in a fit of jealous rage in Broadstairs.

The 55-year-old, of Lymington Road, Westgate, had denied murder - and relied on the "partial defence" of loss of control, which can reduce the offence to manslaughter.

Couple Anne-Marie and Lee Birch at the opening of the Westgate micropub. Picture Wayne McCabe

Couple Anne-Marie and Lee Birch at the opening of the Westgate micropub. Picture: Wayne McCabe

But he changed his plea to guilty at Maidstone Crown Court before the end of his trial.

It emerged 47-year-old Anne-Marie had made more than 30 frantic calls to police - including some where Birch was at the end of her road - desperately pleading for help in the days running up to her death.

That was despite Birch being the subject of a non-molestation order.

Now four emergency call centre workers are being investigated for alleged gross misconduct by the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

Speaking after the case, Judge Philip Statman said "There is an inquiry outstanding here and I am going to say something about that.

"I have listened to the 34 calls made to the emergency services and I have no doubt about the nature of the calls.
 
Murderer Lee Birch has been told he will spend at least 25 years behind bars

Murderer Lee Birch has been told he will spend at least 25 years behind bars

 
"And furthermore I want to say about the waiting times for response for officers to come when this lady made the calls to the emergency services especially when she was telling operators that he (Birch) was at the end of the road.
 
"What more does a victim who has a non-molestation order have to do than Anne-Marie and her daughter did in the manner they did?
 
"I know the police have a very difficult function, but I believe there needs to be some consideration for a hotline in his type of difficulty.
 
Judge Philip Statman sits at Maidstone Crown Court

Judge Philip Statman sits at Maidstone Crown Court

 
"There were apparent failures that led up to the killing. The tragedy is we are here."
 
Judge Statman was speaking after the court heard Birch stalked his wife for months at the former marital home in Nethercourt Gardens, Ramsgate - flouting court orders banning him from any contact - before launching the fatal attack on November 7 last year.

Pathologist Dr Simon Poole said the rope had been looped at least four times around the victim's neck and tied with a knot. She had multiple fractures to her face and head.

The prosecution alleged Birch also intended to kill his wife's new partner Michael Daniels, but could not find him.
 
Officers investigate the death in Whiteness Road, Broadstairs

Officers investigate the death in Whiteness Road, Broadstairs

Birch's jailing comes as a police control room leader, supervisor and two call handlers have been served with notices by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).

The investigation will look at potential gross misconduct, after it was said they dealt with phone calls from Mrs Birch just days before her death.

Calls from Mrs Birch ranged from November 2 to November 7.

Investigations were started after "it became apparent Kent Police had been in contact with Mrs Birch since September."


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