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Murdered Libby Squire’s mother urges tough sentences for ‘low level’ sex crimes

The mother of murdered Libby Squire has called for tougher sentences for crimes such as voyeurism and indecent exposure to stop would-be rapists and killers in their tracks.

Lisa Squire said lower level crimes, defined as non-contact sexual offences, should be seen as “red flags” and need to be taken more seriously to prevent emerging sexual predators from escalating to rape and murder.

Her 21-year-old university student daughter was abducted, raped and murdered while walking home from a club in Hull in 2019 and she has been campaigning for earlier intervention and harsher punishments ever since.

Married father-of-two Pawel Relowicz was arrested after police launched a large-scale manhunt in the wake of Libby’s disappearance. He was jailed for life with a minimum term of 27 years after being found guilty of her rape and murder.

The 28-year-old had dumped the philosophy student’s dead or dying body in the River Hull, hoping it would never be found, Sheffield Crown Court heard as the sentencing judge described him as “very dangerous” and being “emboldened” because he had not been stopped.

Relowicz, a Polish butcher, had been carrying out a campaign of sexually motivated crimes in the student area of Hull, peering through windows to watch young women and breaking into their homes to steal intimate items.

Mrs Squire told MPs on Wednesday sentencing “needs to be harsher” and the Government needed to do more to raise awareness of the “widespread” crimes.

Speaking to the Commons Home Affairs Committee, she said Relowicz “had a long history of non-contact sexual offences running from voyeurism, to household burglaries, to exposure.”

While she never questioned why police had not caught him – because his offending was very different on each occasion – she said she could see a “link between his offending and then the eventual rape or murder of my daughter.”

In the 18 months prior to Libby’s death, he had “escalated massively and nobody seemed to know anything about it”, MPs heard.

Libby Squire death
University student Libby Squire was raped and murdered in 2019 while walking home from a night out (Family handout/Humberside Police/PA)

He was “out on the streets looking for a second victim” within two hours of killing her daughter, Mrs Squire said as she called for murderers to be banished to prison for life and warned he will “come out and do it again” if released from jail.

Mrs Squire said lower-level sex crimes were often downplayed and dismissed but they were “incredibly serious”.

“If we can stop it here, then we’re going to save women and girls from the absolute trauma of being raped,” she added.

Police she worked with “all want to stop it” but can see how “difficult” it is mainly because victims do not report incidents and so the escalation in offending is not recorded.

“Women and girls do not report non-contact sexual offences very frequently,” she told MPs.

The problem is “very widespread” and estimated out of a group of 30 girls aged 20, around 75% would have experienced this sort of incident.

She said: “I have a huge circle of friends and each and every one of us has been a victim of non-contact sexual offence.”

Mrs Squire previously said she believed Relowicz had exposed himself to her daughter weeks before the murder, although his identity was not known at the time.

Recalling the incident to MPs, she said it left Libby feeling “absolutely furious”, but she “talked her down”, adding: “I didn’t think to tell her to report it. I didn’t know better then, I know better now.”

She said she believes some victims have not reported incidents because they did not think it would be taken seriously by police but also that society has been “conditioned” over the years to think “it’s just something that happens, but that’s not OK”.

While someone may not have been hurt physically, “emotionally, it’s very traumatising”, she added.

Committee member Tim Loughton said Mrs Squire should be “applauded for trying to get something done about this because it’s just not on the radar” and asked where the biggest problem lay in trying to bring about change and shift attitudes.

Mrs Squire said it was “embarrassing” for young women and victims did not want to waste police time or had little faith the offender would be caught, adding: “We’ve got to change the whole narrative around it. But I do think there’s a lot of embarrassment.”

A “very obvious” campaign could help, she said, adding: “I think we need to have a lot of Government pushing of ‘this is a criminal act’ and sentencing needs to be harsher.

“It’s a slap on the wrist for the majority of people if they’re caught. So it needs to be taken as the really serious offence it is … throw the book at them because I’m a bit like that. But a short, sharp slap is not going to work, it needs to be serious.”

Those convicted of such crimes should be placed on the sex offender’s register for life and efforts to change attitudes have to “start in schools”, teaching boys this is “not normal behaviour” and encourage girls to report incidents if they become a victim, she added.