A MAN who terrorised his ex-wife and mother-in-law was not identified as a stalker by police, despite six calls from his family complaining of harassment.

Kieren Lynch, 50, set 72-year-old Jennifer Cronin alight in her garden in Boyce Green, Benfleet, on March 13, 2018.

He also doused himself in petrol and set himself on fire. They died from the injuries. Police had tried to arrest Lynch the previous day but could not locate him.

Lynch had been on bail for criminal damage at the time, and he was prohibited from contacting Ms Cronin, his ex-wife Susan Lynch and their daughter Molly.

This offence took place in January 2018, but between then and the tragic incident on March 13, Lynch had continued to contact and harass the family through texts and phone calls.

The family made six calls to the police over Lynch’s behaviour between January and March.

A Domestic Homicide Review has now found that police should have identified stalking in Lynch’s case which could have resulted in quicker action.

The review, carried out by the Castle Point Community Safety Partnership, follows another probe by the Independent Office of Police Conduct in January which identified a lack of clarity in breaches of domestic abuse offences.

The latest review, published this month, said: “Contact with Harry [pseudonym] was from January to March 2018, concerning domestic related offences.

“These offences were flagged as domestic due to the relationship (former partners), and appropriately triggered responses within those policies and procedures.

“In addition to this the criminal offence of stalking should have been identified and responded to.”

There was also a failure to recognise and record further offences (other than breach of bail) during contact in the week prior to the killing, an absence of proactive responses to breaches of bail and a lack of understanding of which officers should be responsible.

There was a lack of proper checks in relation to firearms and failure to identify children within homes where offences took place.

It was also found that Lynch had considerable contact with his GP, mental health and alcohol addiction services in 2016 and 2017, but these were not aware of the change in Lynch’s behaviour, but police were.

The report said the GP should have gone with a “think family” approach when Lynch highlighted his mental health issues and abuse of substances.

The review added: “Harry’s pattern of behaviour amounted to stalking and should have been identified and pursued as such by police.

“This could have led to more action in response to opportunities to hold Harry accountable for his behaviour and keep victims safe by taking their levels of fear into account.

“This was most obvious when police were called in the early hours of the day of the homicide, in which concerns were expressed for Olivia [pseudonym], who Harry was now also contacting.”

Essex Police's response

Chief Superintendent Steve Worron said: "This case sadly saw two people tragically lose their lives back in March 2018.

"Their deaths and the circumstances around them would have had a painful impact on everyone involved and I offer my deepest condolences to those affected.

"Our officers are dedicated to protecting and serving the public in everything they do. In this case an inquest found that we could have done more to have kept Jennifer safe.

"Since the findings of the inquest into her death, we set up a working group to ensure that the recommendations of the Assistant Coroner were quickly reviewed and implemented.

"Eight officers have received management action in relation to record keeping and processing of information and this has been fully completed to the satisfaction of our Professional Standards Department.

"I must stress that management action is not a disciplinary sanction – its aim is to highlight those areas of performance and set expectations and to aid learning.

"This has included introducing Proactive Teams with our Domestic Abuse Investigation Teams, who have a specific focus on arresting perpetrators.

"Since 2018, we have undertaken a review of our training around response to reports of Domestic Abuse, Stalking, Harassment and Honour-based abuse.

"Enhanced training has been and is being given to both student officers and officers on probation (with less than two years’ experience), with a particular emphasis on our safeguarding of families with children involved in domestic abuse.

"Additional training has been and is continued to be delivered in our Control Room to better improve how our call handlers link incidents that involve the same address and people involved.

"This information is now more easily accessible to frontline officers who have improved access to information sharing sites and apps.

"Incidents involving stalking victims are recorded in the most serious crime category following Government National Police Chiefs Council’s advice changes last year and we’ve successfully implemented a number of stalking prevention orders since they were introduced this year.

"Both these changes disrupt and detect perpetrators while keeping victims safe.

"Since the incident we have established the Domestic Abuse Governance Board who meet regularly with our partners to continue to review our policing.

"Force leads for both mental health and domestic abuse continue to attend national conferences to share best practice. Our work around mental health has progressed following the establishment of our Mental Health Street Triage Teams, consisting of officers, special constables and mental health nurses from Essex Partnership University Trust (EPUT).

"Following this tragic incident we worked closely with the Independent Office of Police Conduct (IOPC) who identified no misconduct in respect of the actions of the officers involved.

"I would like to finish by once again offering my condolences to the families of those who sadly lost their lives and I hope that the actions taken offer some form of comfort to them.”