Police and CPS 'failed' murder wife

Prestwich and Whitefield Guide: Hajrudin Hasanovic was jailed for life for murdering his estranged wife Cassandra in July 2008 Hajrudin Hasanovic was jailed for life for murdering his estranged wife Cassandra in July 2008

The mother of a woman who was stabbed to death by her estranged husband in front of their young children has called for a public inquiry after an inquest found that the police and Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) failed to take steps which could have averted her murder.

Sharon De Souza said Cassandra Hasanovic had been let down by Sussex and Kent police forces and the CPS and that "a number of serious failings" had led to her death.

A jury sitting in Chichester, West Sussex, returned a verdict of unlawful killing today and criticised Sussex Police and the CPS for failing to take the appropriate steps to safeguard the 24-year-old's life.

The jury concluded that Sussex Police had failed to ensure Mrs Hasanovic's safety and said that they should have escorted her to a women's refuge on the day she was murdered.

The also found that Kent Police failed to arrest Hajrudin Hasanovic for breaching his bail conditions and that the CPS did not take a number of steps to safeguard Mrs Hasanovic's life, including failing to apply for her estranged husband's bail to be withdrawn and failing to inform her of the special measures that might have been available to help her give evidence against him in court.

Mrs De Souza and staff from the domestic violence charity Refuge, who supported her throughout the inquest, burst into tears as the jury read out their findings.

Mrs Hasanovic was about to be driven to a women's refuge by her mother Sharon De Souza when Hasanovic appeared at the side of her car and hauled his estranged wife over one of the children and out of the vehicle before plunging a knife into her, the inquest heard.

Serbian-born Hasanovic, 34, attacked Mrs Hasanovic, who was known as Cassie, outside her mother's home in Bognor on July 29, 2008.

Hasanovic, who was known as Harry, was facing deportation at the time of the killing and feared losing a custody battle for the children.

He was jailed for life, with a minimum of 18 years, for her murder at Lewes Crown Court on May 1 2009.

During the trial, Hasanovic was described as a "paranoid and jealous" partner who controlled his wife throughout their marriage and turned her from being bright and bubbly to a "petrified" young woman.

Following the verdict, Mrs De Souza, Cassie's mother, said: "My daughter Cassie was a beautiful, courageous young woman, who did everything within her power to protect herself and her children.

"She was a wonderful mother whose greatest wish was the chance to watch her children grow up.

"Although her situation was in the hands of three different agencies, ultimately these agencies let her down.

"The jury have unanimously decided what we always felt: that there were a number of serious failings by all three state agencies that ultimately impacted on her chance to a life.

"I would like to thank the Coroner and the jury for taking such care in considering the evidence and holding these agencies to account."

Mrs De Souza also thanked her barrister Karon Monaghan and Refuge, calling for a public inquiry "in the hope that another family does not have to go through what we have".

West Sussex Coroner Penelope Schofield said she would be writing to the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo), Sussex Police and the CPS to recommend that information on domestic violence cases be shared across forces.

She also said there should be better policing in respect of non-molestation orders, a central point of contact where breaches could be reported and that training to deal with domestic violence cases should be addressed.

She said: "The circumstances of this case have moved many people including myself and as a mother I cannot comprehend what it must have been like for you.

"Although this process has been very painful for you, I hope it has helped to bring you some sort of closure."

Sandra Horley, chief executive of national domestic violence charity Refuge, called on the Government to open a public inquiry into the response of the police and other agencies to victims of domestic violence.

She said: "They found that Sussex Police officers were inadequately trained in domestic violence - something we always feared.

"I am saddened by the finding of this inquest but regrettably I am not surprised.

"Every week two women are killed by current or former partners in England and Wales.

"Mounting evidence shows that in too many of these cases, the police and other state agencies fail to protect victims of domestic violence.

"The list of women who have been failed by the state is sickeningly long and it will only grow longer unless something is done."

Sussex Police said as a direct result of Mrs Hasanovic's murder the force had reviewed its risk assessment procedure for officers responding to allegations of domestic abuse.

A police spokeswoman said training for officers and staff dealing with domestic abuse cases had also been reviewed and was ongoing.

Detective Chief Inspector Pierre Serra, from Sussex Police, said: "This was a wicked and callous crime in which Hajrudin Hasanovic brutally murdered his wife, Cassandra Hasanovic, in a public street and in front of their children and her mother.

"We continue to express our sincere condolences to Cassie's family who have suffered this tragic loss of a mother and daughter.

"Sussex Police acknowledges the verdict of the jury in this case and awaits the Coroner's letter highlighting points raised in the inquest.

"This case was a watershed moment for Sussex Police and we have already learnt a number of important lessons from it in terms of how we deal with cases of domestic abuse.

"The protection of life is our highest priority and we will do all we can to prevent such crimes as these from happening.

"We are determined to do everything we can to bring justice for all victims of domestic abuse."

Jaswant Narwal, Chief Crown Prosecutor for the CPS South East, said: "Our involvement with Cassandra dates back to a complaint of domestic violence sexual assault that she made to the police in 2007.

"For a number of reasons, a prosecution was not brought. It is now clear that there were shortcomings in the way in which we dealt with Cassandra's case.

"A decision about whether to proceed with a case should always start with an assessment of whether there is sufficient evidence and it is in the public interest to proceed.

"If we conclude that it is appropriate to proceed, we will explore all reasonable options to enable the victim to give evidence.

"Since that time, the CPS and the criminal justice system as a whole have seen significant changes in the way we prosecute domestic violence and sexual offences.

"Improvements in the system provide a better service to the victim and ensure that offenders are brought to justice wherever possible. The use of live video links from abroad, for example, is now much more commonplace.

She said a Rape and Serious Sexual Offences (RASSO) Unit staffed by specially trained lawyers was established in the South East in 2011.

To find out more about Refuge's call for a public inquiry and to sign the petition, go to www.refuge.org.uk/publicinquiry.

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