Probation officers never told Sunderland killer made rape threats a month before murdering again

Probation officers were never told a convicted killer had made threats to beat and rape a woman before he murdered again just over a month later, an inquest has heard.

Wednesday, 29th May 2019, 5:30 pm
Stephen Unwin, left, and William McFall were both out on licence for killing people when they murdered Quyen Ngoc Nguyen.

Nail technician Quyen Ngoc Nguyen was murdered and her body dumped on the back seat of her Audi vehicle which was set alight on a dirt track in Shiney Row in August 2017.

Stephen Unwin and William John McFall, who had both been released from prison on licence after serving time for two separate murders, were jailed in April 2018 and a now serving a whole-life sentence.

Quyen Ngoc Nguyen met Unwin and McFall when they worked as handymen on houses she was renting out.

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An inquest into the 28-year-old's death was launched to look at whether there were any 'missed opportunities' to prevent her murder.

Evidence submitted today said the police unit in charge of monitoring offenders was under staffed and under resourced and using an 'antiquated' system which was created in the 1980s.

Giving evidence today, Amanda Love, a senior probation officer and Multi-agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA) coordinator in charge of the management of sexual and violent offenders, said she had never been informed of the incident - until reading it in the case papers for the inquest.

Communication between the police, probation service and other organisations had been highlighted as an area that is improving but is made difficult due to a lack of resources.

But National Probation Service issues have resulted in a block on ViSOR, a secure national database developed to support the joint management of individuals posing a risk of serious harm, which could improve access to information on offenders.

When Sunderland Senior Coroner Derek Winter asked if any of the incidents coming to the attention of the police regarding Unwin, of Houghton, were referred to the probation service, Ms Love replied: "Not to my knowledge."

Ahead of the murder, the MAPPA unit, was struggling under a 'unmanageable workload'.

As a result, changes were made which meant automatic notifications on updates to an offender's record were cut.

Retired Det Ch Insp Jacqueline Coleman, formerly involved in dealing with MAPPA cases, says automatic notifications of updates on intelligence and information were stopped when it produced an increase in workload, after it led to staff receiving ‘hundreds and hundreds of notifications'.

The decision was made in April 2015 that ‘flags’ which were relevant pieces of information placed on offenders’ records, would no longer be passed on to the Probation Service.

Ms Coleman said although there were no formal restrictions as to how many offenders one member of staff at MAPPA were in charge of, it was informally recognised that 50 was the maximum.

But cuts meant the number each risk management officer was responsible for rose to in excess of 80 criminals each.

She added that civilians were brought in taking on roles previously held by experienced officers to 'save money'.

Officers were also using a manual database which has been described as ‘old-fashioned’ and ‘inefficient’ - and required manual inputs of hundreds of codes.

Giving evidence, Det Chief Insp Louise Cass-Williams, who was a detective inspector in MAPPA at the time, said the system Northumbria Police uses was created in 1984 and is now 35 years old.

“It’s an antiquated system and quite difficult to navigate,” she added.

There is a new system being planned which will come into operation in around 18 months.

The inquest continues and Coroner Winter says he expects to make a ruling next Tuesday.