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Nottingham stabbing victims’ families protest to police force over ‘abhorrent’ WhatsApp message

Ian Coates, left, a school caretaker, was Valdo Calocane's third victim after he had killed students Barnaby Webber and Grace O'Malley-Kumar
Ian Coates, left, a school caretaker, was Valdo Calocane's third victim after he had killed students Barnaby Webber and Grace O'Malley-Kumar - NOTTINGHAM POLICE

The families of the victims of the Nottingham stabbing claim police refused to let them confront an officer who shared an “abhorrent and unforgivable” message about their children.

Barnaby Webber and Grace O’Malley-Kumar, both 19, along with school caretaker Ian Coates, 65, were killed by paranoid schizophrenic Valdo Calocane in a series of knife attacks in Nottingham in June last year.

The families said on Monday they would not be sharing the contents of the message shared in a WhatsApp group, but did wish to express their outrage at the language used.

Nottinghamshire Police have now launched multiple misconduct cases against officers related to the case.

On Monday, it also emerged that the police officer son of Kate Meynell, the chief constable, was in the WhatsApp group in which the offensive message was shared.

Officer given final written warning

There is no suggestion of any wrongdoing on his part and he was simply in the group, but another officer, PC Matthew Gell, who forwarded the message to family members, was given a final written warning following disciplinary proceedings.

It is understood that the officer who initially shared the message received a management intervention but not formal misconduct proceedings.

A statement signed by the victims’ families reads: “The language that he uses to describe these horrific details of the attacks on Barney and Grace is abhorrent and unforgivable.”

“The chief constable has advised all families that she is committed to transparency in all  communication. However, in a reply to a request for more information regarding the conversation of the WhatsApp group and number of officers involved, she has advised that she will not be prepared to answer any further questions.

“She has also denied [Barnaby’s mother] the opportunity to deliver a message to the officers involved in the WhatsApp group to explain how the unprofessional and cruel language used has hurt the families  even more.”

The families spoke out after Ms Meynell said she was “horrified” to learn that another of her officers viewed bodycam footage showing the aftermath of the attacks.

An investigation carried out by the force found that in total 11 members of staff viewed material relating to the case who did not have a legitimate reason to do so.

Special constable viewed murder scene footage

The special constable who viewed footage from the scene was sacked in December and another staff member is still to face misconduct proceedings.

In the latest statement, which was sent to The Telegraph and other media organisations by Emma Webber, Barnaby’s mother, the families said they “would not be silenced”.

They added: “This behaviour must be addressed and urgent changes made as this must not happen again to other innocent families.”

The “lengthy and detailed statement” was sent because it was of the “utmost importance that our serious concerns and ongoing mismanagement by the Nottingham Police are brought to light”, the families said.

They also criticised the force for holding an off-the-record press briefing last week, where journalists were told they could not report the information discussed.

A spokesman for Nottinghamshire Police said: “The off-the-record background briefing advised and facilitated by the NPCC (National Police Chiefs’ Council) is standard practice and is part of authorised professional practice for policing.

“The family have raised a number of concerns and the appropriate way for these to be resolved is through the ongoing independent investigation by the IOPC as well as the review by the College of Policing.

“Commenting further could prejudice these investigations.

“We have written to the families of all of those affected by this horrific crime and offered to meet them.”