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The mother of two sisters who were murdered in a park in north London said the Met Police’s apology “won’t cut it” as she warned a police inspector’s comments about her daughters indicate “racial profiling, misogyny or classism”.
Bibaa Henry and Nicole Smallman were attacked and stabbed to death in the early hours of 6 June last year after spending an evening celebrating the older sister's 46th birthday at Fryent Park in Wembley.
Danyal Hussein, who was 18 when the killing took place, was found guilty of murder at the Old Bailey in July.
Mina Smallman, the mother of Nicole and her younger 27-year-old sister Bibaa, fiercely condemned the Met Police’s handling of the case after an investigation by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) discovered the police response to the family in the immediate aftermath of the sisters’ disappearance was “unacceptable”.
Ms Smallman, who is the Church of England's first female archdeacon of black and minority ethnic descent, said: “We’re not the only parties who suffered mental anguish at the hands of the Met Police’s incompetent, reprehensible and blatant disregard of agreed procedures regarding missing persons.
“It began with the call handler’s inappropriate assertions, mishandling the call, which led to the cancellation of the missing persons alert. The inspector on the second shift made erroneous assumptions about the whereabouts of our daughters.
“We’re also of the view that his unprofessional comments about Bibaa and Nicole’s picnic suggest racial profiling, misogyny or classism.”
She noted around 14 people – made up of friends and family – launched their own missing persons investigation which began at roughly 4am on Saturday morning and finished with Nicole’s boyfriend Adam Stone finding their bodies.
“This lasting image of his soulmate will forever remain in his mind’s eye. ‘Sorry’ just won’t cut it. It’s too hollow,” Ms Smallman said. “Especially as we await the IOPC report to be published, the sentencing of Danyal Hussein and the appearance in court of two Met Police officers.”
She continued: “Sorry is something you say when you comprehend the wrong you have done and take full responsibility for it, demonstrating that by taking appropriate proportionate action – which the Met Police have failed to do.”
The sisters’ bodies were discovered two days after the incident was reported to police. While the IOPC found the family had been failed, no police officer is facing a disciplinary hearing.
Met Police chief Cressida Dick said: “The way we responded to information that Nicole and Bibaa were missing that weekend was below the standard we should have achieved and compounded the distress felt by their loved ones.”
She said she was “very sorry that the level of service we provided fell short” – adding that a better response could have “saved their friends and family immeasurable pain”.
The Met’s apology comes after two officers were charged earlier in the year over photos taken at the scene of the killings of Nicole and Bibaa that were allegedly shared on WhatsApp.
PC Deniz Jaffer and PC Jamie Lewis, two Met Police constables, were arrested in June on suspicion of misconduct in public office after allegedly taking selfies with the dead bodies while they were on duty guarding the crime scene – with Scotland Yard saying the images were shared in a closed WhatsApp group.
Jamie Klingler, one of the founders of Reclaim These Streets, a leading campaign group supporting Ms Smallman, told The Independent the family’s treatment by the Met was “not just substandard, but negligent and strongly underpinned by racist discrimination”. A “belated apology” was not enough, she added.
Ms Klingler said: “From refusal to investigate after they went missing, to police taking and sharing selfies with their bodies, the families have been let down at every step.
“This behaviour is not a one off. There is institutional racism and misogyny across this police force and we need real structural change not just empty words and forced apologies.
“And as Mina has previously said: ‘If ever we needed an example of how toxic it has become, those police officers felt so safe, so untouchable, that they felt they could take photographs of dead black girls and send them on’.”