Young woman murdered after pleas to police ignored
Compiled from various sources
published: 4WardEver UK – December 2010
Any news updates on this case will be listed at the foot of this item
Tsehaynesh Medhane, the mother of Arsema Dawit, a teenage schoolgirl knifed to death near her home on 2nd June 2008, accused police of missing chance after chance to save her from being murdered by an obsessed former boyfriend who made repeated threats to kill her. Tsehaynesh said: “I feel that Arsema’s life could have been saved if the police authorities had taken action when I approached them before she died.”
Police were called to reports of a stabbing and on arrival officers found Arsema in a lift suffering from a number of stab wounds. She was pronounced dead at the scene. She had been repeatedly knifed in the lift at the block of flats in Waterloo, south London, where she lived with her family.
Thomas Nugusse, 21, a student from Ilford, Essex was charged with her murder. The couple met at church and dated, but after Arsema ended the relationship Nugusse became obsessed and threatened to kill her. Arsema’s terrified mum Tsehay had raised the alarm with police after Nugusse had hit the schoolgirl, yet officers are said to have claimed they could do little.
The attack was so frenzied that the handle of the knife used to stab the young woman snapped. Wayne Fort, whose partner and daughter discovered the body, said he had once seen Arsema’s relatives warning the stalker off.
Mr Fort described how his partner and nine-year old daughter found Arsema covered in blood, the knife still in her side. “My daughter was banging on the door of our flat screaming and crying ‘Daddy, daddy, come quickly, the girl is in the lift, she’s on the floor, there’s lots of blood.’ I ran out to the lift and saw the poor girl just slumped there. My partner and my daughter are absolutely distraught. Arsema was a lovely and normal girl.”
Police took less than an hour to track their prime suspect down. Nugusse confessed to Dawit’s murder in a 999 call. After his arrest, he twice tried to kill himself, leaving himself brain-damaged and unable to enter a plea. He was convicted in May 2009.
Members of the family said they had previously told police that the 15-year-old had been assaulted by the obsessive young man. Scotland Yard confirmed that they had received a complaint that a man, aged 29 or 30, had assaulted her in a McDonald’s restaurant on 16th April 2008, making threats to kill her.
It was said that an officer spoke to Arsema at her school on 12th May 2008, but she claimed to have “no knowledge” of the incident. Police contacted the teenager’s mother a week later, and the investigation was still ongoing at the time of her murder.
Simon Tesfaghiorgish, a close family friend, claimed Arsema “stopped going to church, she didn’t go the last three Sundays except for last Sunday, he was harassing her”. He went on; “I didn’t know him but he had been harassing her. He beat her and threatened to kill her. “The mother told police a number of times but they said they couldn’t take any action. After things happen, they want to know. We’re going to complain about this.”
In its report, published October 2010, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) said there had been “collective and organisational failings” in the handling of Dawit’s allegations, adding: “Tragically through omission, misunderstanding and assumption, the messages and information given by the family on the night of 30 April were not sufficiently acted upon.”
The investigation focused on the actions of an inspector, a detective inspector, a detective constable and a station receptionist. It found that the receptionist failed to tell a senior officer that a threat to kill had been made, to record contact details for Dawit’s cousin or to arrange for mobile phones to be seized as evidence. Nor did the detective constable who looked into the complaint “conduct a timely and effective investigation”. According to the IPCC, “a culmination of leave, other work commitments and a reliance on a schools officer to make contact with Ms Dawit, meant progress by the detective constable was slow.”
But the report did not find anyone involved responsible for Dawit’s death.
The IPCC commissioner Rachel Cerfontyne said: “While our investigation has found that a station receptionist and a detective constable could have done more, neither were responsible for what happened to Miss Dawit.”
Cerfontyne said she was concerned by the heavy workload of the inspectors interviewed in the course of the investigation, especially “the almost unmanageable volume of work some supervisors are responsible for and the risk it creates of cases falling through the net.”
In separate allegations against Lambeth Council it was alleged that security doors that could have saved stabbed schoolgirl Arsema Dawit were left in disrepair for months after failures by council bosses.
The broken doors meant that anyone could walk off the street into the block where the former choirgirl was knifed to death in a lift on Monday. Residents in Matheson Lang Gardens, near Waterloo Station, had fought for at least three months to get the system fixed amid fears for their safety.