Michaela Hall: Murder victim failed by agencies, says coroner

A mother who was fatally stabbed in the eye by her boyfriend was failed by agencies, a coroner has said.

Former airline flight attendant Michaela Hall, 49, from Mount Hawke, Cornwall, was killed by Lee Kendall on 31 May 2021.

Kendall, 45, an alcoholic and former drug addict, was jailed for life with a minimum 21-year term for her murder.

Cornwall coroner Andrew Cox said "shortcomings and errors" by probation services happened before her death.

Mr Cox said in a narrative conclusion that Ms Hall had been unlawfully killed.

Ms Hall had been attacked by Kendall on multiple occasions before her death, the inquest in Truro heard.

They had met in April 2019 when Ms Hall, who was then a charity support worker, had visited Kendall in prison.

A relationship started and after Kendall was released a number of attacks by him on Ms Hall were reported to police.

They led to him being recalled to prison and he was released in July 2020 only to keep up the attacks, being arrested 10 times by police, the inquest heard.

'Wrongly assessed'

In April 2021, Kendall admitted two assaults on Ms Hall and in May was given a three-year community order.

A few weeks later Ms Hall was dead.

Mr Cox told the inquest that probation services had "wrongly assessed as medium" the risk of serious harm posed by Kendall.

That meant management of Kendall was by local probation services rather than the national Probation Service and that was "inappropriate", he said.

Probation services had been sent a file on Kendall after he was released from prison, the inquest heard previously.

But a probation officer had only a "cursory glance" at the papers before going on holiday and when she returned Ms Hall was dead, the inquest heard.

"Had the shortcomings and errors not occurred it is more likely than not that Ms Hall would not have died when she did," said Mr Cox.

'Blinkered perspective'

He also said a care order meant that both Ms Hall's children had been removed from her home for their protection against Kendall.

"This is blinkered perspective because Kendall was equally a danger to Ms Hall," said Mr Cox.

"More could and should have been done.

"With the dangers Kendall posed why did children's services not refer her to adult services?"

He also questioned why children's services had not sent a high risk referral case to the Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conference (Marac).

It includes local police, probation, health, child protection, housing practitioners, independent domestic violence advisors and other specialists from the statutory and voluntary sectors.

'Holistic approach'

"It must have been apparent to the agencies the danger that Ms Hall was in," he said.

"There is a need for a more rounded or holistic approach."

Ms Hall had called a friend earlier on the day she died and her friend heard the attack on her by Kendall.

She called charity Crimestoppers who called police and two officers went to her home and left after no answer.

"She was already dead or dying by the time of the officers' arrival," said the coroner.

'Rose-tinted glasses'

Officers went the next day, on 1 June and also had no reply.

Officers went again in the evening but there was no answer.

Police got a call later from Ms Hall's mother who was also concerned about her.

Later a neighbour called police to say Ms Hall's father had found her dead at the house.

One policeman said they did not enter the house because everything looked in order and felt that no-one was home.

Mr Cox said because of Kendall's risk to Ms Hall, "officers must be sure" to see the alleged victim.

"If this means some doors may be damaged, then so be it," he said.

Mr Cox said police had made six referrals to Marac saying Ms Hall was at high risk from Kendall.

"In my view the police did what they could with the tools available to them," he said.

The inquest heard that Ms Hall chose to be with Kendall of her own free will.

A social worker said Ms Hall "saw things through rose-tinted glasses".

Another social worker said Ms Hall "seemed to be in [a] sort of pipe dream" and thought that all would be well.

'Horrific crime'

Mr Cox pointed out that "no health-related inquiries appear to have been undertaken" into Ms Hall who had shown signs of autism.

The coroner said he would send a number of prevention of future death reports.

He said he would release who and where they were sent in due course.

Mr Cox added Ms Hall was "far too young to have died in these circumstances" and asked those involved to "reflect on the lessons that come out of this investigation" and "we do our utmost to prevent similar deaths in the future".

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said it was a "horrific crime" and they were "deeply sorry for the unacceptable failings".

They said they have "unified" the probation service and will inject extra funding of more than £155m a year to deliver "more robust supervision, reduce caseloads and recruit thousands more staff to keep the public safer".

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