Vital questions must be asked to identify victims of controlling and coercive abuse say reviews on two Fenland murders
The murders of three women have prompted separate calls for frontline professionals to have a better understanding of controlling and coercive behaviour in domestic abuse.
Two separate council-led domestic homicide reviews have recommended staff training and a public awareness campaign as well as urging health practitioners to ask "explicit questions" concerning domestic abuse.
Fenland Community Safety Parnership (FCSP) carried out a review of the case of Wisbech woman Dzilva Butiene (referred to as Irena in the report but clearly it is Mrs Butiene's case), who was murdered by her partner Kestutis Bauzys in April 2017.
A similar review was carried out by the Safer Lincolnshire Partnership into the murders of mother and daughter, Claire and Charlotte Hart by husband and father Lance Hart in Spalding in 2016.
Both reviews found the victims were subjected to coercive control by their killers. It also found in Mrs Butiene case that alcohol dependency played a part.
Jon Chapman's report on Ms Butiene found she was an isolated and vulnerable woman who spoke little English and relied totally on Bauzys, who had stamped her to death.
The report said Mrs Butiene, a mother of two from Lithuania, "seemed to have nowhere to turn to" and added it was likely others would be "in a very similar position".
It continues: "If anything is to be understood and learnt from this case, it is important that both voluntary and statutory agencies can take this learning forward. They should consider how people such as Irena can be reached and given support when it is most needed. We need to discover ways to get victims to come forward or reach them. "
Mr Chapman said that while there was no indication she was a victim of domestic abuse when she was admitted to hospital in November 2016 "that very question was not asked".
He said: "To ensure a full picture emerges professionals need to exercise a healthy curiosity as a matter of routine."
Mr Chapman makes a number of recommendations including that health practitioners be encouraged to ask "explicit questions concerning domestic abuse and that signposting to other support agencies by referral is considered on an individual basis."
Another recommendation was for the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Trust to review its policy so all patients are asked if there is any domestic abuse as opposed to targeting specific categories of patients. The King's Lynn hospital’s chief nurse, Emma Hardwick, said it had “revised process which includes direction for staff to ask all patents direct questions relating to domestic abuse” following the report's findings.
The report also recommends integrating the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority into the FCSP for "future proofing" domestic abuse policy within the migrant population. This should be considered to maximise publicity opportunities in the workplace.
The report into the Harts' case detailed how Mrs Hart and her three children had suffered coercive control abuse by her husband without realising it for many years.
Hart shot his wife and daughter in a swimming pool car park before turning the weapon on himself.
The murders happened days after Mrs Hart had left the family home following a breakdown in the couple's marriage.
Hart's behaviour was not known to professionals or understood by members of his family, the report said.
The review said Mrs Hart told her doctor a month before her death that pain from a facial condition she was suffering from had worsened due to "some marital stress".
But as she did not "indicate any domestic abuse or fear of domestic abuse", her GP had not questioned it further.
As a result, the report also recommended health professionals should question patients more about domestic abuse.
It added: "This means it is vital for all professionals to be able to recognise the criminal cases of coercive and controlling and respond to them - as the victims themselves may not either see themselves as victims or be physically unable to break free."