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Saturday 18 August 2018

Widow's horror as police offer her bloodied TV and guitar used in murder of husband

Maureen Goddard with a picture of her and husband Matthew on their wedding day
Maureen Goddard with a picture of her and husband Matthew on their wedding day

Claire McNeilly

A murder victim's grieving widow was subjected to further heartache after police returned items which were still covered in her dead husband's blood.

The weapon used to bludgeon Matthew Goddard to death was also brought to his wife Maureen's Belfast home - even though she had made it clear she never wanted to see it again, the, the Belfast Telegraph is reporting.

The Police Ombudsman, however, found no fault with the officers involved - a ruling which has shocked East Belfast MP Gavin Robinson, who described their actions as "completely inappropriate".

A victims' group also supported Mrs Goddard's claims that she wasn't treated with the necessary dignity and respect following the brutal slaying of her husband in his home by brothers William and James Turner in 2014.

The Zimbabwe-born mother of two is now launching an appeal against the Ombudsman's report, which found no grounds for disciplinary action in all nine of her complaints against the PSNI's handling of her case.

Mrs Goddard (46) said she "couldn't believe it" when a blood-spattered television, which had been taken away for forensic examination following the murder, was brought back to her home last September without being cleaned.

"I was shocked at their insensitivity. I just broke down," she said. "I felt physically sick. I wasn't prepared for that. They didn't warn me in advance."

She added: "To make things worse, I was offered pieces of the electric guitar that had been used to kill Matt.

"They'd been brought to the house but stayed in the police car.

"It took them years to return Matt's belongings and then this happens.

"It made me relive the horror of what happened to him. I can't get those images out of my mind."

A spokesman for the Police Ombudsman said a detailed investigation of Mrs Goddard's complaint had been conducted.

"Police and other witnesses were interviewed, and an examination of police documentation, emails and information from other agencies formed a significant part of the investigation," he said.

"We understand and acknowledge the distress experienced by Mrs Goddard. However, having carefully considered the evidence, we determined that it would not be appropriate to recommend disciplinary action against any individual officer.

"If Mrs Goddard wishes to contact us, we will of course consider any concerns she might have."

William and James Turner were each sentenced to a minimum of 17 years in jail for what the judge described as a "sustained, pitiless and horrifically savage attack" on Mr Goddard at his terraced house in Chobham Street on December 23, 2014.

They punched, kicked and battered their victim with an electric guitar before stamping on his head - because of remarks allegedly made by Mr Goddard about James Turner.

The 41-year-old's body was discovered wrapped in a curtain at the bottom of the stairs, on Christmas Eve. Mrs Goddard says she is still trying to come to terms with James Turner having his prison sentence reduced by two years by the Court of Appeal last month.

And Mr Robinson, DUP MP for the area, said: "Aside from the tragedy of this case, there has been a catalogue of errors and failures.

"I have a thick file in my office where many organisations have accepted they failed Maureen, but I am bitterly disappointed that the Police Ombudsman, when they take these complaints in the totality, have not recommended a Police Service apology." He added: "The Ombudsman has failed Mrs Goddard entirely.

"Regardless of the explanation given, no one in their right mind would consider it appropriate to return a blood-stained television to a bereaved widow, never mind the murder weapon itself.

"One can only imagine the further heartache and sorrow that caused her."

One of Mrs Goddard's complaints states that a PSNI officer "brought Matt's TV in and plonked it on the sofa. He opened up the TV and it was covered in blood stains… He had the guitar in the car and offered to give it to her after she had specifically requested not to be given it back."

In response, the Police Ombudsman's report said it had conducted enquiries with the Exhibits Officer responsible for the return of the items and found that "she was aware that the television was bloodstained, however, she was on leave the day it was removed from the property store along with other exhibits."

It continued: "The officer who attempted to return the items would appear to have acted in good faith, given the instruction to return the items.

"When he discovered the blood stains on the television he acted accordingly in seeking advice before handing over any items."

It concluded: "There is insufficient evidence to identify any police misconduct against any police officer."

Another complaint by Mrs Goddard, that she experienced further distress when offered the murder weapon, was also dismissed after the investigation found: "The officer stated that he did not bring the guitar exhibits into the house."

The report also referred to a comment made by a witness who was with Mrs Goddard when the items were being returned: "She said everyone, including the officer, was shocked when the packaging was opened and the television was found to be covered in blood."

But the Ombudsman ruled there was no police misconduct and "insufficient evidence to suggest that the police officer concerned acted in an unprofessional manner".

Geraldine Hanna, CEO of Victim Support NI, which has provided backing for Mrs Goddard since the murder, said it has "supported her right to make any complaints she feels are necessary", adding: "We believe that issues around communication and the management of expectations caused additional upset for Maureen.

"One of the basic premises of the Victim Charter is that victims should be treated with dignity and respect... unfortunately, this is something we feel can still be lacking in communications sent to victims, and certainly was a standard which Maureen felt missing from her experience."

With regard to the returning of items connected with the murder and other issues, Mrs Hanna said: "Victims understand that mistakes can be made. Where this happens it is important that we acknowledge the mistake, apologise for it and take appropriate learning.

"Whilst some mistakes may not qualify as misconduct, they can cause additional distress to already traumatised victims...sensitivity in the language used can make a huge difference to victims feeling that their complaints have been heard, acknowledged and taken seriously.

"It is essential for all of us to remember that we are dealing with individuals, and to tailor our responses accordingly... there is still a huge way to go before we achieve our goal of an emotionally intelligent, trauma-informed, and tailored response to victims' needs."

Belfast Telegraph

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