Family of Sunderland woman killed by husband angry over 'loopholes' in domestic abuse rules

A Sunderland carer's family voices anger and frustration over 'loopholes' in the rules which allow domestic abusers the chance to attack.

Thursday, 22nd August 2019, 2:24 pm
Updated Thursday, 22nd August 2019, 5:40 pm

Kay Martin - who was referred to by her maiden name Kay Richardson throughout the inquest at the request of her famiy - died as a result of unlawful killing at the hands of her husband Alan Martin, a coroner concluded.

The case is to be highlighted with the Home Office in the hope of closing the gap in protection for domestic violence victims and save other lives.

The hearing at Sunderland Civic Centre heard that Mr Martin, 53, of Gardiner Square, Grindon, had been arrested on suspicion of assaulting and raping Kay just weeks before the killing.

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A forensic officer enters the house in Shrewsbury Crescent, Sunderland, as part of the inquiry into the deaths.

What happened on the night of the killing?

Kay, 43, who worked as a carer had returned home after work at around 9.30pm on Wednesday, September 19.

She was brutally attacked by Mr Martin, the inquest heard, and sustained "at least four" blows to the head with a hammer before she was strangled with an electrical cable.

A pathologist said it was likely she was unconcious when she died.

Flowers and a Police presence outsde the house in Shrewsbury Crescent, Humbledon, Sunderland, on Sunday.

Inquiries by police established Mr Martin, who had parked his car at the end of the street, had arrived shortly before 8pm and let himself on with his key,

The disturbance between happened at around 10pm, the inquest was told.

Police did not have the powers to seize his house keys as the couple jointly owned the home and his keys were returned to him when he was released under investigation after being arrested on suspicion of attacking Kay weeks before her death.

Mr Martin's body was found hanged in the house alongside Kay's body after concerns were raised about Kay on Thursday, September 20.

Police outside the house in Shrewsbury Crescent where the bodies Kay Richardson and Alan Martin were discovered.

Kay was found dead in the bedroom after

The court was told that if he had survived, Mr Martin, who had denied the previous attacks when interviewed by police, would have been charged with murder.

History of abuse

Northumbria Police had recieved 12 reports in relation to Mr Martin since January 2011, 10 of which were classed as domestic abuse.

Mr Martin was arrested on suspicion of raping and assaulting his wife on September 7 and Kay had been classed as at 'high risk' by police, Detective Sergaent Katie Smith said.

This was done basis of professional opinion, rather than a score from a set form, Det Sgt Smith told the inquest hearing.

Her number and her address had been flagged with police, she had sought support from organisations including Wearside Women in Need.

Mr Martin was served a non-molestation order on September 18, but attacked Kay the next day.

Her case had been due to be discussed by a Multi Agency Risk Assessment Conference on September 26.

Why was he given the keys?

Det Sgt Smith said the house keys - which were found in his pocket of Mr Martin's jeans - could have been taken if he had been bailed rather than released under investigation, but it was decided it was not proportionate to bail him.

If he had been bailed, officers would have had a deadline of 28 days to get a charging decision from the Crown Prosecution Service. As Kay had withdrawn the rape allegation and there was a "lack of evidence" over the assault police were unable to bail him so he was released under investigation.

As Mr Martin was joint owner of the couple's house his keys were returned to him.

'Too many loopholes'

A member of Kay's family told the inquest: “There are too many loopholes for domestic abuse perpetrators to slide through.

“This is how there are so many domestic abuse murders happening.

"The law is just not tough enough to control them, it just baffles me.

"It amazes me that you have got to tick boxes, you can't judge somebody's life by ticking a box."

They also asked if Kay could have been given a panic button, but police say mobile phones have been found to be better as technology moves on.

More sanctions needed

Coroner Derek Winter, who said Kay had died of a "brutal and sustained attack" said he would be writing to the Home Secretary to look at what sanactions can be imposed on a defendant released under investigation and what could be done if they were breached.

He said he was concerned about a "gap in protection" for domestic abuse victims.

He said: "What affect they would have had on Alan Martin had that occured, there's no way of knowing, but it may be possible to save somebody else's life in future."

At the close of the inquest, a statement read out on behalf of Kay's family said: "The family take comfort hearing today that if he was alive now, he would be charged with murder.

“The conclusion of unlawful killing is a satisfactory outcome from the coroner.

“We want to say that this was a cowardly and evil act.”