A murderer could have been arrested before he bludgeoned a man to death with a brick if Northamptonshire Police had carried out a more thorough investigation into robbery and burglary allegations against him, an IPCC investigation has found.
Phillip Haslam, aged 36, was sentenced to life imprisonment at Northampton Crown Court in September 2012 after he was found guilty of the murder of John Kiernan, aged 62, in Kettering.
The jury heard how Mr Kiernan was ‘hogtied’, gagged with a pair of socks and repeatedly struck with a brick, in order to force him to sign a £90 cheque to fund Haslam’s addiction to heroin.
Mr Kiernan’s decomposing body was not discovered until October 1, two weeks after he was killed.
An IPCC investigation has found that two police officers had a case to answer for gross misconduct for failing to carry out an adequate investigation into a robbery that Haslam was suspected of carrying out in Kettering on September 1.
Investigators found that an intelligence report submitted on September 14, 2011, that implicated Philip Haslam as a suspect for the September 1 robbery, was not acted on until September 27, eight days after Mr Kiernan was killed.
IPCC investigators found officers failed to carry out any house to house enquiries, or accurately record information throughout the investigation into the September 1 robbery.
Police also failed to identify or record a crime reported by Mr Kiernan in mid-September as a robbery and failed to arrest Philip Haslam for any of the offences until September 28.
At a misconduct hearing held last month by Northamptonshire Police both officers, Acting Detective Sergeant Sean Arbuthnot and Temporary Detective Constable Samantha Broadhurst, accepted written warnings for failing to carry out adequate investigations.
IPCC Commissioner Derrick Campbell said it appeared that Mr Kiernan’s claims by police were “dismissed on the basis he had a drink problem”.
He said: “This was an appalling murder of a vulnerable man in his own home. Our investigation found a number of investigative failings by officers and poor handling of intelligence by Northamptonshire Police.
“While allegations made by Mr Kiernan may have been unclear, his demeanour identified him as a vulnerable adult who should have been dealt with as such.
“It appeared that often his claims were dismissed by police on the basis that he had a drink problem and his accounts were therefore unreliable. Had a more thorough police investigation been carried out into the earlier reports of burglary and robbery, Haslam may have been arrested prior to committing the murder.
“We have been advised by Northamptonshire Police that they have since taken steps to enhance its intelligence handling, improve training for officers and its provision of services to vulnerable people.”
The IPCC investigation concluded in July last year and the report and findings were shared at that time with Northamptonshire Police.
A spokesman for Northamptonshire Police said: “We acknowledge the findings of the IPCC independent investigation and that two officers have appeared before an internal gross misconduct hearing, and have received written warnings for their poor performance on this occasion.
“The organisation accepts learning identified within this investigation. A full review of processes with regard to crime investigation has taken place since this tragic event and significant steps have been taken to improve the service we now provide.”