Nottinghamshire Police investigated by watchdog after veteran murdered despite '8 warnings'

Barry Spooner, 74, was stabbed to death by Sarah Hansford, 44, in his home on Gladstone Street, Forest Fields, in late May 2023
Barry Spooner, 74, was stabbed to death by Sarah Hansford, 44, in his home on Gladstone Street, Forest Fields, in late May 2023 -Credit:Nottinghamshire Police

Nottinghamshire Police has been investigated by the policing watchdog after a veteran was murdered despite officers reportedly receiving eight warnings over his safety. Barry Spooner, 74, was stabbed to death by Sarah Hansford, 44, in his home on Gladstone Street, Forest Fields, in late May 2023.

The former soldier had taken pity on Hansford in 2020 and allowed her to stay at his flat, after which she began to fleece him of thousands of pounds of life-savings to fund her class-A drug habit. Three years later, she inflicted more than 30 stab wounds on his body, pushed it into the cellar and covered it in cardboard.

The killer's sentencing hearing at Nottingham Crown Court was told she was caught on CCTV dancing naked in the street after the murder, before shaving her head and dressing as Mr Spooner to withdraw what remaining cash he had in his Lloyds bank account. A soon-to-be published Independent Office for Police Conduct report will detail whether the troubled force, which was placed into special measures in March, failed to protect Mr Spooner's safety and welfare.

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According to The Times, Nottinghamshire Police had been warned eight times in two years regarding Mr Spooner's welfare. The Times says Mr Spooner was "scared for his health" after suffering "vicious" physical abuse from Hansford. At one point he even asked if she could be evicted, fearing she would unleash her "wrath".

Officers reportedly removed Hansford from Mr Spooner's home and served the local council with a public protection notice following the concerns. Mr Spooner's bank manager, who reported concerns about his welfare around a year and a half before his death, said his death was "preventable".

A separate IOPC investigation is currently taking place over the force's conduct before, during and after the Nottingham attacks in June 2023, where students Barnaby Webber, 19, Grace O'Malley Kumar, 19, and school caretaker Ian Coates, 65, were killed by Valdo Calocane - who had been wanted for nine months prior to carrying out his fatal stabbings.

The IOPC has said it will release its findings on Nottinghamshire Police's conduct relating to Mr Spooner's death once inquest proceedings have concluded. “Following a referral from Nottinghamshire Police, we investigated their contact with Barry Spooner before he was found stabbed to death on June 7 last year," a spokesperson said.

“Police identified that Mr Spooner had experienced issues with a woman who had been staying with him, resulting in safeguarding concerns. The IOPC investigation examined whether decisions and actions taken by Nottinghamshire Police officers and staff concerning Mr Spooner’s safety and welfare were appropriate, and in accordance with relevant local and national police policy. Our enquiries focused on seven incidents reported to police between May 2021 and May 2023.

“During our investigation, which concluded in January this year, all officers and staff were treated as witnesses. Our investigation report has been shared with the force, Mr Spooner’s family and the coroner."

Nottinghamshire Police said none of its officers had been investigated for misconduct, adding that it had taken actions to try support Mr Spooner. “We referred ourselves to the IOPC on the 9 June 2023. This referral was made because of previous contact we had with Mr Spooner," a spokesperson said.

"The IOPC treated all officers involved in those interactions as witnesses. This means that no one was investigated for misconduct.

“It is not accurate to state that the force took no action in relation to prior contact with the victim. We took action on a number of occasions, which included referring Mr Spooner to other agencies for support.

“We cannot comment further as there will be an inquest into his death and the IOPC has not made its completed report public.”