Coroner in tears over death of new dad stabbed in street
Inquest jury criticises police over failure to flag up concerns about mental health of student who went on to kill biologist
20 July, 2018 — By Samantha Booth
Dr Jeroen Ensink and Nadja Ensink-Teich
A CORONER was moved to tears after a jury inquest criticised police for their handling of mental health concerns surrounding a man who went on to kill top biologist Dr Jeroen Ensink in a random knife attack.
Mental health charities have criticised the Met after the jury returned a narrative verdict of unlawful killing, with a conclusion that “there were a number of failures in the arrest, charging and custody” of the attacker, Femi Nandap.
Nandap, then 23, had been arrested for possession of a knife and assaulting a police officer seven months before the December 2015 killing in Tufnell Park.
The jury at St Pancras Coroner’s Court said on Tuesday that there had been communication problems in flagging up his mental health problems at this point.
The charges were “incorrectly” dropped by the Crown Prosecution Service six days before Nandap went on to stab 41-year-old Dr Ensink to death in Hilldrop Crescent.
The new father, a senior lecturer at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, had just left his home to post letters announcing the birth of his then 11-day-old daughter Fleur.
Coroner Mary Hassell
Senior coroner Mary Hassell began to cry as she thanked the jury for their service after the two-week inquest. Several jury members were also visibly upset.
The jury said the failures resulted in a delay in concerns about Nandap’s mental health being recorded or reported to mental health services.
The verdict added: “As a result, he did not receive any mental health care, treatment or monitoring in the UK. It is possible that these failings could have had an effect on Dr Ensink’s unlawful killing, but we cannot be certain.”
If Nandap’s mental health issues had been acted on by the “appropriate authorities” before December 2015, the jury also said, the killing “could have possibly been avoided”.
The two police officers involved in the arrest of Nandap in May 2015 admitted at the inquest that they had not submitted “Merlin reports” – notices which flag up mental health concerns to other authorities. They both said that in hindsight they would have.
Concerns about Nandap’s mental health were raised by his sister, but not all officers saw them.
The day after the arrest Nandap flew back to Nigeria where he had mental health treatment.
Marjorie Wallace, chief executive of mental health charity SANE, said: “All too often police are left to pick up the pieces left by fragmenting psychiatric services.
“But in this case the Met simply failed to alert mental health services when Nandap was arrested for carrying a knife and attacking a police officer, and when his sister and others raised concerns about his mental state.
Student Femi Nandap
“Had they done so things may have turned out differently.”
Nandap, suffering from paranoid schizophrenia at the time of the killing, is serving an indefinite hospital order after admitting manslaughter by diminished responsibility.
Dr Ensink’s widow Nadja has said she wants the Met to apologise to her for the failings.
She said: “This inquest has revealed numerous failings by police in their treatment and handling of Nandap. It has been distressing and exhausting to sit through two weeks of evidence and to hear of the many missed opportunities that occurred between May and December 2015.”
Superintendent Nick Davies, from Central North Command Unit, said the Met had carried out an internal investigation, which concluded that officers should have completed a Merlin report.
A Director of Professional Standards investigation, which ended in December, concluded that there were no misconduct matters, but found “areas of learning” for officers who came into contact with Nandap, around best practice for dealing with mental health suspicions.
All frontline officers have been given further training and issued with a warrant card-sized guide on the Vulnerability Assessment Framework, used to help them identify anyone who is vulnerable and in mental health crisis.
Supt Davies said: “The jury today has made a number of comments about previous police contact with Nandap. We will look in detail at the issues they have raised before responding to any recommendations the coroner may make.”
He added: “Where we could have done things better we will learn from those cases and make changes. We will examine this verdict to see if there is more we need to do.”
‘A void that can never be filled’
Nadja Ensink-Teich with Fleur, ‘the most wonderful little girl’
DR Jeroen Ensink’s widow has thanked the more than 1,500 people who raised cash to pay for her lawyer after she was refused legal aid for representation at the inquest, writes Samantha Booth.
The government is due to review the provision of legal aid for inquests, which left Nadja Ensink-Teich facing the prospect of representing herself in court.
Nearly £60,000 was raised through the CrowdJustice page online. Ms Ensink-Teich told the Tribune: “If it hadn’t been for the public who donated, I wouldn’t have got here.
“To go through the inquest without legal representation, I have no idea how I would’ve done that. It would’ve been impossible. I’m so incredibly grateful to everyone who donated.”
She added: “I think it was the shock of our story and shock of being denied legal aid, when the two others [lawyers for the Crown Prosecution Service and the Met] would be paid by taxpayers’ money, just gave a sense of unfairness.”
The Legal Aid Agency did not agree with senior coroner Mary Hassell that the case was an Article 2 inquest. Article 2 relates to the right to life under the European Convention of Human Rights. For an Article 2 inquest to be held, a coroner must agree the death was potentially caused by failures sufficiently serious to breach the obligation of the state to protect life.
The inquest enabled evidence about police handling of the case to be aired in open court.
Ms Ensink-Teich now plans to return to the Netherlands, where she moved with daughter Fleur, now aged two-and-a-half, after the death of her husband.
“It feels surreal that two-and-a-half years have passed since Jeroen was brutally taken from us and our lives were shattered,” she said.
“Widowed parenthood is hard at the best of times, but despite all the difficulties Fleur is the most wonderful little girl who brings so much love and light into my life.
“We talk about Papa a lot, but there remains a massive void which can never be filled. I am dreading the moment when Fleur asks me why she doesn’t have a father and I have to explain what has happened.
“I hope that the process of the inquest allows Fleur and I to move forward with the knowledge that after two-and-a-half years I can say that I did everything I could to expose any failings and missed opportunities that played a role in this tragedy.”
The Ministry of Justice, which oversees the Legal Aid Agency, said: “The Lord Chancellor has committed to review the provision of legal aid for inquests alongside our review of legal aid. We will be opening a call for evidence shortly and would encourage anyone affected to share their experiences of inquests.”