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Metropolitan Police officers missed five opportunities to save the life of a vulnerable teenage girl killed by her abusive and controlling boyfriend, a coroner has ruled.

Katrina Makunova, 17, died outside a block of flats in Camberwell, south London, following a row with her then partner on July 12, 2018.

She suffered a single stab wound to the chest after ‘falling on a knife’ she carried in her handbag when she was pushed by Oluwaseyi Dada.

Dada, 21, pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to a two-year jail term for the killing in January 2019. 

Officers failed to follow-up on reports of domestic abuse, despite being called to her home on multiple occasions in the months prior to her death, a report has ruled. 

In a prevention of future deaths report published on Friday, Senior Coroner Andrew Harris criticised Met’s handling of case saying the force failed to investigate Katrina’s ‘past and present association with gang members’ and, as such, it was never identified as a risk to her safety. 

Katrina Makunova, 17, was killed after falling on a 17-centimetre knife she kept in her handbag after becoming increasingly wary of her partner

Katrina Makunova, 17, was killed after falling on a 17-centimetre knife she kept in her handbag after becoming increasingly wary of her partner

Katrina Makunova, 17, was killed after falling on a 17-centimetre knife she kept in her handbag after becoming increasingly wary of her partner

Oluwaseyi Dada ,21, admitted the manslaughter of Ms Makunova at Southwark Crown Court in January 2019

Oluwaseyi Dada ,21, admitted the manslaughter of Ms Makunova at Southwark Crown Court in January 2019

Oluwaseyi Dada ,21, admitted the manslaughter of Ms Makunova at Southwark Crown Court in January 2019

Mr Harris also highlighted five incidents in which Katrina had contact with police in the months prior to her death.

A jury returned a ‘long narrative’ verdict at the conclusion of an inquest at London Inner South Coroner’s Court on September 8. 

The court heard Katrina ‘suffered a pattern of abuse and coercion and controlling behaviour’ that included ‘violence and threats against her family members and friends’.

Boyfriend Dada, a convicted drug dealer, would also carry and display a knife in front of the teenager, leaving her feeling ‘isolated, scared and depressed’. 

As a result, she began carrying a knife herself.

Ms Makunova was the victim of a 'coercive and controlling' relationship at the hands of her abusive boyfriend prior to her death

Ms Makunova was the victim of a 'coercive and controlling' relationship at the hands of her abusive boyfriend prior to her death

Ms Makunova was the victim of a ‘coercive and controlling’ relationship at the hands of her abusive boyfriend prior to her death

Makunova, 17, was found with a single knife wound outside a block of flats in Camberwell, south London

Makunova, 17, was found with a single knife wound outside a block of flats in Camberwell, south London

Makunova, 17, was found with a single knife wound outside a block of flats in Camberwell, south London

TIMELINE: The five opportunities to save teenager’s life 

Over the five-month period between February and July 2018, the coroner identified five incidents where police had contact with Katrina and Dada, but her vulnerability was not accounted for when the Met made risk assessments. 

February 6, 2018 

Dada stole Katrina’s phone, allowing him to control her communications, but this was not recognised.

February 13, 2018

Police were called to Katrina’s work address, where she described and police identified ‘clear examples of coercion and controlling behaviour’.

However, when Dada was released from custody, police did not take any mitigating safeguarding actions to protect the teenager.

The convicted ‘county lines’ drug dealer had served a 30-month sentence for pushing heroin and crack cocaine in Norwich. 

July 11, 2018

Police were called to Katrina’s home, but Met officers failed to assess and manage her risk.

There were also failures to investigate allegations of domestic abuse and a failure to provide effective safeguarding as no Merlin report was sent. 

A Merlin report is a database operated by the Met that stores information on children who have become known to the police for any reason – ranging from being a victim of bullying to being present while a property is searched. As Katrina was 17, she was still a juvenile.

June 23, 2018 

Police were again called to Katrina’s home, but there was a failure to acknowledge there was a report of criminal allegations of harassment and to record the incident as a crime.

There were also failures to properly assess and manage and record the risk because no ‘booklet 124 D’ (a domestic violence form) was completed. Misleading information was also entered on the crime report and there was another failure to safeguard Katrina as, again, no Merlin report was sent.

June 27, 2018

Katrina and Dada attended Walworth police station following a dispute.

However, high case loads contributed to ‘a delay in implementing community safety unit supervisor directions’.

The incident was not considered urgent because it was viewed as an ‘isolated’ incident despite previous allegations.

The Met admitted another failure to investigate the allegation of domestic abuse and a failure to provide adequate safeguarding because no Merlin report was sent for a third time. 

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Following a row outside a block of flats in Brisbane Street, Camberwell, the 5ft 4ins teenager was pushed by the 6ft 3ins Dada and fell on the 17-centimetre blade inside her handbag.

Police and paramedics were called to the scene to find Dada performing CPR on the victim.

Due to her past trauma, experiences and age, Katrina was vulnerable and at an ‘increased risk of contextual harm’.

Her vulnerability also made engaging with local authorities more difficult.

Over the five-month period between February and July 2018, the coroner identified five incidents where police had contact with Katrina and Dada, but her vulnerability was not accounted for when the Met made risk assessments. 

As part of the report, Mr Harris identified areas of concern that need addressing in order for future deaths to potentially be prevented.

He said: ‘Whilst significant steps have been taken to recognize contextual abuse by all the organizations since the death, there remains a concern. 

‘Police officers knew of the perpetrator’s wearing of a knife. 

‘Possession of a knife was not recognized in risk assessments and not always recorded by police, nor social services. It was also unclear from police evidence when gang affiliation should be explored and when it would be recognized as a risk. 

‘Those around Katrina, knew of her past and present association with gang members; yet this too never seems to have been investigated and identified by police as a risk factor. 

‘Evidence was heard from her brother and another witness that her fear of what harm he might do led her not to make a full disclosure of his controlling behaviour to the police.’

He added that workload pressures within the Met’s Child Safety Units were ‘considerable’, but he was concerned by data presented at court which showed the force may not be able to establish a workforce of ‘sufficient capacity’.

The coroner has recommended that university academics provide expert-based evidence about how the carrying of knives should considered in risk assessments in relation to those at risk of domestic abuse.

He has also asked the Met and the Mayor’s Office to consider whether staffing of Child Support Units needs to be increased to ‘enable proper risk assessment and safeguarding’.   

Speaking after her death, brother Julius paid tribute to the tragic teenager, describing her as a ‘hardworking, confident and joyful girl’.

He added: ‘She could walk into the room and put a smile on everyone’s face.’  

Her sister Nicola said: ‘I cry myself to sleep and wish she would appear in my dreams.’

In an impact statement read out in court she told Dada: ‘You have not just killed her – you have killed us too.’

Detective Inspector Domenica Catino of the Homicide and Major Crime Command, said following Dad’s conviction: ‘A young woman has lost her life and my thoughts are with her family and friends, who have been devastated by Katrina’s death.

‘This is another young person who has been killed as a result of a knife and we need our communities to work with the police to end this scourge.’

Commander Melanie Dales, the Met’s lead officer for public protection, said: ‘Miss Makunova’s death was a tragedy and, as a police service, we have acknowledged our failings and enhanced our response to reports of domestic abuse. Our thoughts and sympathies remain with Miss Makunova’s family and friends.

‘The Metropolitan Police Service is a learning organisation and we always strive to learn and improve. Domestic abuse is one of the most complex and challenging areas of policing and we continually review our policies and training.

‘To continue developing our response to domestic abuse we have launched an online reporting system and have adopted the Domestic Abuse Matters cultural change programme, in collaboration with the domestic abuse charity SafeLives.

‘More than 6,800 frontline officers are in the process of receiving enhanced training to ensure they can identify and gather evidence of coercive controlling behaviour, recognise perpetrator tactics and understand the dynamics of domestic abuse.

‘We have also launched Predatory Offender Units across London which are dedicated to identifying and arresting the most serious offenders and reduce the risk of repeat offending. Officers have made more than 1,700 arrests since November 2020.

‘We all join policing to protect people like Miss Makunova and we are deeply saddened that more was not done to safeguard Miss Makunova. We expect all officers to take allegations of domestic abuse seriously and we are committed to protecting those at risk.”

‘When completing risk assessments in domestic abuse cases, Met officers follow the nationally-recognised guidance, which does take into account the carrying of weapons and a question is included which asks whether the weapons or objects could cause harm to the person in question.

‘We will engage positively with any evidence-based academic research to help further understand how knife-carrying and gang association are risk factors in domestic abuse as our priority is to tackle violence against women and girls. We want to learn from this case and protect Londoners further.

‘The Met continually evaluates where to place its workforce. A review is ingoing and due to report later this year and is actively considering placing additional officers into Child Safety Units.’

Source: Daily Mail UK

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