Police failings “materially contributed” to the deaths of a 22-year-old woman and her mother who were murdered by the daughter’s abusive former partner, an inquest has found.
Raneem Oudeh and her mother, Khaola Saleem, 49, were stabbed to death by Oudeh’s estranged husband, Janbaz Tarin, in August 2018, after he had subjected her to stalking, domestic violence and coercive control for over a year.
The pair were killed outside Saleem’s home in Solihull while Oudeh was on the phone to West Midlands police, one of at least seven calls she made to emergency services in the run-up to her death, many of which were played to the jury.
At Birmingham coroner’s court, an inquest into their deaths concluded on Friday that officers had breached the force’s domestic abuse policy on a number of occasions.
The jury found that “officers failed to carry out effective investigations into potential offences” committed by Tarin, and “failed to take sufficient steps to safeguard Raneem”.
Tarin previously admitted the double murder and was jailed for life with a minimum of 32 years in December 2018.
Saleem’s sister, Nour Norris, said she had struggled to contain her anger when the 999 calls made by her niece were played out in court.
“[Raneem] told them everything they needed to hear to arrest him from the first call. She told them about the abuse and how he threatened to take her life,” she told the Guardian.
“The level of failure was appalling. There was so much evidence, but he wasn’t arrested even once, he wasn’t questioned even once. If the issue was addressed early enough, maybe Raneem and Khaola would be with us today.”
The inquest heard that Oudeh, who had a son from a previous relationship, had been subjected to months of violence and abuse at the hands of Tarin, who slept in a car outside her house when she tried to leave him. On one occasion he carved her name into his arm with a razor blade.
A few months before her death, Oudeh had left Tarin as she believed he had a pregnant wife and children in his home country of Afghanistan who he had been keeping secret.
In the first call to police on 2 April 2018, Raneem can be heard saying: “My old boyfriend, he is always forcing me to stay with him. He says, ‘I will kill you if you leave me’.”
In a call the following month, she told police Tarin punched her in her face and stomach, although she later retracted her police complaint after speaking with Tarin.
In August, Oudeh successfully served a non-molestation order on Tarin, a type of injunction against a partner.
On the night of their murders, Tarin accosted Oudeh and her mother at a shisha lounge, and slapped Saleem in the face.
Oudeh called the police four times, although officers were delayed by a firearms incident in the area, and she eventually asked to speak to police the following morning instead.
She was still on the phone to the police when she returned to her mother’s house, where Tarin was waiting for them. Screaming can be heard in the background of the call, along with the words “he’s there, there, there”.
The inquest concluded that police failed to keep adequate records of the separate incidents leading up to the murders, often leaving out Tarin’s threats to kill Oudeh, and that incidents were not treated with appropriate seriousness.
Norris said: “At every stage they showed a dismissive attitude and a lack of understanding about domestic violence. And because they didn’t take strong action, the perpetrator used that against her, he was empowered by the police not arresting him. It made him think ‘Oh, I can do what I like here’. He would actually go to her and say, ‘Look, the police don’t believe you, no one believes you, I’ve got full control of you’.”
Norris said that after a while Oudeh lost faith in the police and stopped calling, although alarmed neighbours continued to do so, in calls which were also played to the jury.
“We didn’t realise how bad it was until we were in that courtroom. It was horrific. The failure by police was appalling,” she said.
Hannana Siddiqui from women’s rights group Southall Black Sisters said “a dismissive attitude by some police officers betrays a deeper cultural failure to take domestic and honour based abuse seriously”.
“These failures are both shocking and infuriating. They come after many other deaths of women with similar state failures. We call for a public inquiry on femicide,” she said.
Norris said the family have pushed relentlessly to highlight the importance of police training and knowledge of domestic abuse and coercive control, and want to see action taken by police.
“The last thing I want is this case to close and it gets brushed under the carpet,” she said. “We want West Midlands police to apologise in full in public, but we want them to actually give a promise to the public that they’re going to change the system and they are going to make things different.
“At least for the honour of Khaola and Raneem, I want people to be saved and I want changes to be made.”
Andy Hill, assistant chief constable of West Midlands police, said the murders were “among the most shocking and appalling crimes in our region in recent years”.
“On behalf of West Midlands police, I would like to apologise to Raneem and Khaola’s family – we should have done more. It is clear that we should have done more to join-up the incidents of abuse that were being reported to us so that the officers considering Raneem’s case had a full picture of the ordeal that Raneem was enduring at the hands of Janbaz Tarin.”
He said changes had already been made at the force, including increasing the number of staff specifically investigating domestic abuse offences, the creation of a new team to review investigations and more training for frontline officers.
“We recognise, however, that more needs to be done,” he said. “We will continue to learn from the tragic events at the heart of this inquest.”