Police missed chance to stop woman’s death by ‘obsessed’ ex, inquest told

The family of a mother-of-five killed by her “obsessed” former partner have told an inquest that police missed a chance to prevent her death.

Sherrie Milnes was pronounced dead when police and paramedics went to her Weymouth flat on 1 April 2021.

Her ex-partner Steven Doughty, 54, was found dead at his home the same day after taking his own life.

A pathologist told the inquest in Bournemouth that 51-year-old Ms Milnes died from neck compression and multiple stab wounds.

Her family paid tribute to her in a statement, saying: “All who knew her loved her. She had a passion for life and a wicked sense of humour.”

The inquest was told Ms Milnes had called the police the day before her death to complain that Doughty was harassing her.

“There would have been a significant cause for concern as it is in her nature to persevere and solve problems and difficulties independently,” her family said.

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The coroner, Rachael Griffin, said the family believed call handlers had missed opportunities to upgrade her complaint.

“There were indicators, they say, that there were phrases used that should have been noted to raise the log to a higher priority,” Ms Griffin said.

She added that it was the family’s view that if police had given “advice” to Doughty, the “tragic and soul-destroying outcome” could have been avoided.

Ms Milnes, who was a healthcare assistant, had separated from Doughty three times before leaving him on 25 February 2021 due to a new relationship.

“Steve would always pursue Sherrie to get her back, using phone calls, text messages, sending flowers and gifts,” the family’s statement said.

Ms Milnes’s daughter, Holly, said Doughty had been “continuously” messaging and “dialing and redialing” and that she’d blocked him on her mother’s social media.

She said she’d seen him sitting in his car outside their home as “he wanted to check she had gone to work”.

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Holly said Doughty had told her he had contacted Samaritans as wasn’t coping well with the break-up. A friend of his also told the inquest he was “broken and distraught”.

Detective Sergeant Richard Winn from Dorset Police said Doughty was seen on CCTV going into Ms Milnes’s home on the day she died and spending about an hour there.

He told the hearing that blood analysis from Doughty’s clothes showed he would have been kneeling over her when she was stabbed.

The inquest also heard he had searched the internet for suicide methods and left a note “asking for forgiveness” for the “s***storm I have caused”.

Mr Winn said Doughty would have been charged with murder if he hadn’t died.

“I think the intention was to get back together with Sherrie in his mindset and, because it was established that couldn’t happen, then if Steve couldn’t be in a relationship with Sherrie then no one else could either,” he said.

The inquest continues.