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Ramsgate mother of murdered sisters Nicole Smallman and Bibaa Henry dismisses Met police apology


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The mother of two murdered sisters has dismissed an apology from the Metropolitan Police after the force’s response to a search for them was found to be below standard.

Mina Smallman, from Ramsgate, was speaking following a Independent Office of Police Conduct inquiry into the handling of a missing persons report about her daughters Nicole Smallman and Bibaa Henry, who were later found stabbed to death in a frenzied knife attack in a park in Wembley.

Bibaa Henry, left, and Nicole Smallman. Picture: Metropolitan Police
Bibaa Henry, left, and Nicole Smallman. Picture: Metropolitan Police

It happened in June last year following a birthday picnic.

Now, the IOPC has concluded that the level of service provided by the Met in the aftermath "fell below the standard it should have been".

In particular, an inspector and two call handlers came in for criticism and will now undertake internal performance management procedures.

Met Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick has accepted the failures and offered to meet the family in person to apologise.

But Mrs Smallman has branded the Met "incompetent and reprehensible" and accused police of "a blatant disregard of agreed procedures regarding missing persons" and being dismissive of concerns for the sisters.

"Sorry is something you say when you comprehend the wrong you do and take full responsibility for it, demonstrating that by taking appropriate proportionate action – which to our minds is not going to happen," she told the BBC.

"We're not the only parties who suffered mental anguish at the hands of Met's incompetent, reprehensible and blatant disregard of agreed procedures regarding missing persons..."

“The investigation was not handled appropriately. The apology should have been done face-to-face and not nearly 10 months later.

"We're not the only parties who suffered mental anguish at the hands of Met's incompetent, reprehensible and blatant disregard of agreed procedures regarding missing persons."

She added that the on-duty call handler had made "inappropriate and manipulating assertions, which led to cancellation of the missing persons report.

"We're also of the view that his unprofessional comments about the picnic suggests racial profiling, misogyny or classism."

Nicole, 27, and Bibaa, 46, were stabbed to death in Fryent Country Park in Brent on June 5, 2020 but their bodies were not discovered until the following day by Ms Smallman's boyfriend who had gone looking for them with other family members.

Police investigated the murder of sisters Nicole Smallman and Bibaa Henry in Wembley. Picture: UKNIP
Police investigated the murder of sisters Nicole Smallman and Bibaa Henry in Wembley. Picture: UKNIP
Danyal Hussein seen purchasing a knife before the murder. Photo: Met Police
Danyal Hussein seen purchasing a knife before the murder. Photo: Met Police

Danyal Hussein, 18, who did not know the sisters and was said to hold extremist views, was later convicted of their murders.

The IOPC investigation found that the inspector closed the police logs after receiving information about the sisters’ possible whereabouts from a family member.

The information suggested she was not overly concerned about them and would call back in the morning if needed. The inspector believed the information provided was a justifiable explanation for the sisters’ disappearance.

However, it had been inaccurately recorded on the police log by the communications supervisor.

The closure of the police logs did not close the missing persons report at that time created for Nicole, but did prevent the deployment of officers to Nicole’s home. The inspector subsequently did not properly progress missing persons enquiries for Nicole or Bibaa.

A still of Bibaa Henry and Nicole Smallman taken from Bibaa’s phone in Fryent Country Park (Met Police)
A still of Bibaa Henry and Nicole Smallman taken from Bibaa’s phone in Fryent Country Park (Met Police)

The inspector told the investigation that it had been one of the most challenging shifts of his career with 16 missing persons reports open and the North West Command Unit under capacity by almost 50% during the Covid pandemic.

Now the Met has agreed with the IOPC that one of its inspectors and a communications supervisor "responded inadequately" to the missing persons reports for which they will have to undertake ‘unsatisfactory performance procedures’. A call handler will also receive management action.

But their response was not considered to be misconduct.

The Met also denied allegations from the family that racial bias played any part in how the missing persons reports were dealt with.

Met Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick has offered to meet the family in person to apologise.

“My thoughts and deepest sympathies are with the family and friends of Nicole and Bibaa for their tragic losses," she said.

“I am very sorry that the level of service we provided fell short..."

“The way we responded to information that Nicole and Bibaa were missing that weekend was below the standard we should have achieved and compounded the distress felt by their loved ones.

“While we know that very sadly Nicola and Bibaa had been murdered in the early hours of Saturday, 6 June 2020, before they were reported missing, if we had responded better we may have saved their friends and family immeasurable pain.

“I am very sorry that the level of service we provided fell short. We have contacted the family to ask if they will allow me or, if they prefer, another senior officer to visit them at a time that is right to apologise in person.”

She added: "The IOPC also recommended we review the processes and separate computer systems used by different call handlers, and consider whether further training should be provided to ensure all fully understand how systems operate that they might not use as frequently.

"We have already addressed this recommendation by producing an enhanced training information pack for all call operators.

"We understand the IOPC are considering further recommendations; these considerations are ongoing."

The case has been further mired in criticism of the Met after two officers tasked with guarding the scene took selfies of themselves with the bodies which they shared on social media.

They were suspended and later appeared in court accused of misconduct in public office. The officers have said they are "sorry beyond measure" for the pain they have caused the family. Other officers have also been suspended while the case continues.

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