Coroner slams Surrey Police over mother stabbed to death on school run

·4-min read
 (Surrey Police)
(Surrey Police)

A coroner has slammed Surrey Police for failing to protect woman stabbed to death by her estranged husband in front of their three-year-old daughter.

Mother-of-four Aliny Mendes, 39, was attacked as she stepped off a bus by Ricardo Godinho in Ewell, Surrey in February 2019.

She made numerous complaints to police about his conduct in the months leading up to and on the day of her death.

Officers failed to properly investigate the reports and did not recognise that she was at risk of serious harm.

Mrs Mendes had been provided with accommodation in Streatham, south London but police also failed to act when they became aware Godinho had hacked into her iCloud account - allowing him to access all her communications.

An inquest in February concluded Mrs Mendes was unlawfully killed and Surrey Police “probably more than minimally contributed” to her death.

Senior Coroner for Surrey Richard Travers in a prevention of future deaths report highlights multiple opportunities police had to save her life.

He said: “In my opinion, however, there is a continuing risk that future deaths could occur unless action is taken in relation to the concerns set out below.”

“Aliny was unlawfully killed and her death was probably more than minimally contributed to by Surrey Police.”

The report criticised both the investigating officer and her supervising sergeant for failing to protect the vulnerable mother.

Mr Travers said the junior officer faced a misconduct hearing and was required to undertake further training.

Ricardo Godinho (Surrey Police)
Ricardo Godinho (Surrey Police)

However, she still works within the Domestic Abuse team but has not yet undertaken the learning.

Detective Superintendent Juliet Parker admitted the Surrey force had failed and said it was “truly sorry” and “deeply regretful”.

She said: “Our thoughts have been with the family and friends of Aliny since her tragic death and we recognise the profound impact her death has had on all those who knew her.

“We agree there were failings on the part of Surrey Police in how her case was handled.

“Opportunities to safeguard Aliny were missed and for that we are deeply regretful.

“We remain committed to tackling the issue of domestic abuse and measures have already been put in place as a result of the important learning which has come out of this case.

“Our officers are at the heart of the service we deliver to the public and all of those involved have been significantly affected by this tragedy. We come to work every day with the aim of keeping people safe.

“On this occasion we failed and we are truly sorry.”

Godinho, then 41, from Epsom, was found guilty of her murder and the possession of a bladed article at Guildford Crown Court in July 2019.

He was sentenced to serve a minimum of 27 years.

The court previously heard how Godinho followed Mrs Mendes in his car as she rode the bus with her daughter to pick up the family’s other children from school.

Police said he stabbed her as she got off the vehicle, before he dropped the weapon and fled the scene.

In her sentencing remarks, judge Mrs Justice Thornton told Godinho: “You left your daughter watching her mother die. The attack was over in 17 seconds.”

She noted that the lack of defensive wounds on Mrs Mendes’s hands or forearms showed the attack “was so ferocious she had no time to try and defend herself”.

“Your actions have caused devastating waves of pain and anguish to crash through your entire family,” the judge added.

Addressing the aggravating features of Godinho’s offence, she said: “You attacked Aliny whilst she was holding the hand of your daughter.

Aliny Mendes’s last movements were captured on CCTV as she walked with her daughter (Surrey Police)
Aliny Mendes’s last movements were captured on CCTV as she walked with her daughter (Surrey Police)

“No child should ever have to see what your three-year-old daughter saw that day.

“The attack took place in front of other mothers on the school run, who remain deeply distressed by what they saw.

“Whilst your callous attack showed the worst of humanity, they and other eyewitnesses showed the best of humanity.

“Despite their shock and horror at seeing your savage attack, they did everything they could to save Aliny’s life and to shield your daughter from seeing her mother in the aftermath of the attack.”

Officers launched a manhunt after one of Godinho’s colleagues called 999 to tell police he had confessed to the killing.

He was arrested an hour and a half later, police said.

A knife found at the scene was shown to have caused Mrs Mendes’s injuries and Godinho was linked to the weapon after forensic tests.

Police said Mrs Mendes and Godinho, both from Brazil, were married but had separated in late December 2018.

Throughout this time Godinho’s behaviour towards Mrs Mendes had become increasingly intimidating, police said.

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