Met Police ‘missed chances to protect woman killed by ex-husband with crossbow’

The Metropolitan Police missed opportunities to protect a woman from her former husband in the years before he killed her with a crossbow, according to a report.

Sana Muhammad, 35, was eight months’ pregnant when then 51-year-old Ramanodge Unmathallegadoo burst into her home and fired an arrow into her stomach in November 2018.

Ms Muhammad suffered catastrophic internal injuries and died, but her unborn son was delivered by Caesarean section and survived.

Unmathallegadoo, formerly a senior nurse at Newham General Hospital in east London, was convicted of murder in November 2019 and jailed for life with a minimum term of 33 years.

Ms Muhammad was 17 and Unmathallegadoo was 31 when they entered into an arranged marriage in Mauritius in 1999, where they were both born, before divorcing in 2014.

Ramanodge Unmathallegadoo court case
Ramanodge Unmathallegadoo was convicted of murder (CPS)

A domestic homicide review (DHR) report has revealed that the Met Police missed opportunities to protect Ms Muhammad between 2012 and 2018, including binning a “burglary kit” linked to Unmathallegadoo found outside his ex-wife’s home the year before the killing.

According to the report, conducted by Redbridge Council and chaired by former police officer Bill Griffiths, Ms Muhammad called police to her home in February 2012 telling them she “did not feel safe” around her husband.

She added to the call handler her mother had told her that morning that Unmathallegadoo had said to her: “The way I am feeling right now, I could kill someone, do you want me to go to jail?”

Mr Griffiths wrote in the report that the expectation would have been that a risk assessment should take place following the call, but this was not done.

“The record does not show the reason this did not happen,” the DHR author said.

In March 2012, it is understood that an officer gave Ms Muhammad “strong words of advice” about the correct use of the emergency system after she called the police to report verbal aggression from her husband, before telling the visiting officer that she had no firm basis for phoning.

The result of the visit was recorded as “no cause for police action”.

The DHR report found: “On this occasion, an opportunity was missed to make a domestic abuse incident record and to share information with partner agencies.”

The panel “queried” whether the “strong words of advice” may have “hindered” Ms Muhammad’s communication with the police, after listening to future calls she made in which she seemed to be “holding back” on providing information.

In November 2017, a member of the public found a hidden rucksack on the street behind Ms Muhammad’s home that contained “a set of new-looking keys, PVA glue, binoculars, Vaseline, bin bags, large shopping bag, duct tape, Allen keys and barrel lube…a box of unopened prescription medication in (Unmathallegadoo’s) full name”.

The DHR report said: “Having attended the location and collected the items, the two officers returned to the police station and, instead of recording the found property as required, they disposed of it in the refuse bins in the rear yard.

“Apart from the original record on the CAD (Computer Aided Dispatch) system, no report of the find or the circumstances were made on any of the police indices. No further inquiries were made and no reports generated.

“Had the officers correctly made a record it is feasible, but by no means certain, that it could have led to (Unmathallegadoo) being identified through the prescription and that may have led to questioning about the purpose of the items found.”

The DHR report described the disposal of the “burglary kit” as a “missed opportunity” to infer that Unmathallegadoo had been conducting surveillance with the possible intent to commit burglary.

It went on: “With the benefit of hindsight, the failure to correctly record the property found on the occasion of the first report could be seen as influencing the final outcome.

“This was not an example of forgetfulness, inexperience or lack of training, rather, it seems a deliberate act to avoid ‘paperwork’, albeit that pressure of work may have contributed to the decision.”

A misconduct hearing was conducted in February 2021 in respect of both officers in which they admitted not recording the property. The panel decided to deal with the breach by way of “management action” to ensure the officers handled property in line with policy in the future.

In March 2018, the same member of the public found two crossbows, crossbow arrows, a harpoon and a bottle of acid in the same hiding place, according to the report.

The police were called and the items were recorded correctly but the find was not linked to the previous one because there was no cross-reference available on police systems.

Ramanodge Unmathallegadoo court case
A crossbow owned by Sana Muhammad’s killer. (Metropolitan Police)

The report made several recommendations including that the Met Police design and provide “reinforcement training” on handling found property and that the Home Office review the law on crossbow acquisition and consider a licensing scheme.

The Met Police outlined the recommendations in a statement and said: “The Met has accepted all of these points and work has been undertaken, or is ongoing, to ensure they are implemented.

“Tackling violence, particularly against women and girls, is a key priority for the Met and an area where we have made great strides in recent times. Across the Met there are dedicated teams of officers working around the clock to support victims and carrying out enquiries to bring perpetrators to justice.”

The force also said: “Our sincere condolences remain with the family of Sana Muhammad following her murder in Redbridge in 2018.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “We express our sympathies to Ms Muhammad’s loved ones.

“We are considering options on strengthening the controls on crossbows. The government keeps all relevant laws under review to maintain public safety.”