Kerry Power was a 36-year-old primary school assistant in Plymouth who sadly lost her life at the hands of her ex-partner, David Wilder, 41, in the early hours of the morning on the 14th of December 2013. Her 10-year-old son was asleep, upstairs the whole time and found her body when waking up in the morning. This case was big in my area, not because of the suspect but because this brought up many issues with the police and helped make needed changes in the force.
Kerry was with David for three and a half years before finally ending their relationship in November 2013. A couple of weeks before her death, Kerry had taken a restraining order out against David but it didn’t stop him from stalking her. Kerry and her family had called the police numerous times in the days prior to her death, to report criminal damage to her car and David breaking the restraining order by turning up drunk to her home in the night. She was also bombarded by voicemails and text messages; however, they were never threatening, from David which she had also made aware to the police.
David Wilder had a violent history of abuse towards his ex-partners. In the police reports it states that he had received two cautions by the police previously for domestic violence against his ex-wife, however there was no history of domestic violence between Mr wilder and Miss Power.
The night of December 14th 2013, Mr wilder had let himself into her home using a key that he had gotten previously cut whilst they were still together. Kerry had called the police but didn’t say anything because she believed if she couldn’t talk that the police would automatically show up at the home as a welfare check. This was false. When Kerry dialled 999, she was put through to the operator who had asked whether she needed police, ambulance or fire and when she didn’t respond the operator terminated the call. When you call the police but you can’t talk the operator is trained to ask you to either tap on the phone, cough or make some sort of noise. If this is met with silence again then you are asked to type 55 on the keypad so the operator knows you need help. However, on the night of Kerry’s murder, the police have concluded that this was not properly explained to Miss Power. Police later discovered during the phone call; Miss power had said “You have to leave. I don’t know how you got in here but you have to leave.”
After the failed police call, Kerry was strangled at the hands of her ex-boyfriend David Wilder. He, then, called the police at 9:48am on the 14th of December, hours after the crime, and admitted what he had done. On the 16th of December the case was handed over to the IPCC (Independent Office of Police Conduct Complaints) when it had become clear Kerry Power had reported David Wilder stalking her prior to her death. Two days later, they accepted that an investigation into the handling of Kerry Power’s case before her death was appropriate.
On the 18th of July 2014, David Wilder was sentenced to spend at least 18 years in prison before being eligible for parole. In the trial, matters of police conduct were discussed including the handling of Kerry Power’s 999 call on the night she died. Kerry Power’s mother explained feelings that her daughter’s case of stalking was not taken seriously and if it had been then she would still be here. In the trial, Stephanie Power, Kerry’s mother, also spoke about how she had been failed by the operator on the night of her death and if Kerry had the operator explain what she needed to do then the trial wouldn’t have a need to take place. Kerry Power’s son, Olly, wrote a heart-breaking letter which was read out by Stephanie. It read:
“I feel very angry. If I, was you, I would be ashamed. I have a sad and miserable life. You have ruined my life and my family’s life. It was nearly Christmas and we were happy.”
During the night of his mothers death, Olly has described waking up and hearing muttering noises from his mother. When he had gotten out of bed in the morning, he saw his mother laying under a duvet on the floor with David Wilder lying next to her. He didn’t know at this time that she was dead and thought she was just asleep.
Police have made a complete overhaul of how they handle domestic abuse and stalking cases. Including how stalking and harassment cases are reviewed and managed in the control room as well as mandatory training for all recruits. Detective Superintendent Ben Deer, from Devon and Cornwall police, has said “I believe the changes we have made will reduce the likelihood of something like this happening again. We need to get the message out that you cannot call 999, not say anything and expect a response. The force must support people to understand that and you need to make a noise like a cough, tap the phone or press 55. All the force’s training around stalking and domestic abuse was done with Kerry Power in mind and we thank the family for fortitude they have shown in sticking with the process. Whilst the actions the police have taken will not bring Kerry back, they do mean that her death will not be in vain.”
Whilst reading the police reports I’m very torn with this case. Even though Kerry had expressed feelings of fear as she was being stalked, she also made it known that David had never been Violent towards her and that the relationship was not bad. I agree with the changes the police have made to help people in similar situations to Kerry and to stop anything this tragic happening again. I do believe the only person Kerry was really failed by in this circumstance was the 999 operators. If listening to the recording police were able to hear Kerry talking to David and telling him to leave then the operator would have heard that also and should have sent an officer out to check on the situation. This situation is a tragic murder that could have been prevented if the necessary steps were taken prior to the murder when the phone call was made. I hope nothing like this ever happens again and the changes the police have made do stop history from repeating itself.
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