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Police apologise for preventable death

Thursday 28 Feb 2013 7:07 p.m.

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Police have apologised after an investigation found they could have prevented the death of a woman who was attacked by her neighbour with a hammer.

The Independent Police Conduct Authority has found a series of errors ended in the murder of Hamilton woman Diane White.

Just over two years ago Ms White was murdered in an incident the IPCA says police got seriously wrong.

Police discovered her body at her home in January 2010 - she'd been beaten to death with a hammer by mentally ill neighbour Christine Morris.

Morris had escaped from a mental health facility at Waikato Hospital after telling staff she was planning to kill.

“We could have protected Diane, and we didn't. And for that, I'm really sorry,” says the upper North Island’s assistant commissioner Allan Boreham.

The IPCA report identifies numerous failures:

  • Calls by a nurse to Hamilton Police were not answered;
  • When triple one was called, staff prioritised the case incorrectly;
  • A police search of homes in the area was inadequate;
  • When police communications was told the killer was at a property neighbouring the victim, it was misinterpreted as another call about Morris being missing.

The next call police received was from the same neighbour saying Morris had just left her home. A few minutes later she emerged from Diane White's home covered in blood.

“Not all the people are with us anymore. A number of the staff involved in this have resigned,” says Mr Boreham.

“I'm really, really sad and I apologise to the family.”

Police have made dozens of changes since Ms White's death.

Communications staff are now monitored and assessed on their performance and dispatchers are sent automatic case updates. Police say they want to ensure that such a tragedy doesn't happen again.

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