A teenage girl fined by police for reporting her stalker’s increasingly threatening behaviour was “let down” just months before her murder, a regulatory body says.
Shana Grice, 19, had begged Sussex Police to take action against Michael Lane five times over a period of six months in 2016.
But the Brighton receptionist’s pleas went ignored, and he went on to slit her throat in August 2016, the Mirror reports.
In March 2017, Lane, then 27, was jailed for life with a minimum term of 25 years for Shana’s murder.
A year prior Shana had been fined £90 for “wasting police time” because she did not tell officers she was once in a relationship with Lane.
Sky Crime documentary Murder in Slow Motion explored the deaths of young women killed by obsessive exes, including Shana.
Tom Milsom from the Independent Office of Police Conduct (IOPC), says Sussex Police didn’t understand “the difference between a spat between two individuals and harassing behaviour” so Shana was “failed”.
“You really need to listen to the victim and I don’t think that happened to Shana,” he said.
“She was let down.”
Forensic psychologist Kerry Daynes told the Sun: “This is such a tragic murder and all the more so because it was avoidable.
“The case typifies why women have little faith in the police and why they often don’t report incidents because they are not confident they will get the help that they need.”
Shana was just 18 when she met Lane, who lavished her with attention. They dated for a few months after Shana broke up with long-term boyfriend Ashley Cooke, but she called it off when he became volatile and possessive.
He bombarded Shana with messages, sent her flowers for her 19th birthday, put a tracker device on her car and turned up unannounced at her home even though she had reconciled with Ashley.
A frightened Shana called the police in February 2016 and the female call handler phoned Lane and warned him to stay away.
Lane came back to Shana’s house after an office party a month later, and assaulted her as she tried to leave so she called police from Ashley’s home.
But when PC Trevor Godfrey turned up, he interviewed her in front of Ashley and his parents which is a breach of guidelines. Shana didn’t mention she had been seeing Lane, and Tom said if she had been interviewed alone she may have told police he was an ex.
Later Lane told PC Godfrey the pair were actually in a relationship – and provided details of mobile phone messages between the couple which backed his story.
Shana was deemed a liar and fined £90 for wasting police time, with PC Godfrey claiming the complaint was “a smoke screen to disguise her affair.”
In July 2016, Lane stole Shana’s back door key then crept into her house when he thought she was sleeping, but she was awake and hid under the duvet.
Shana recorded a terrifying phone call from Lane in which he said: “I wanted to see you and I knew you wouldn’t let me in. I’m just not right in the head, otherwise I wouldn’t do it.”
She handed over the recording to police but Lane was let off with another caution. Two days later Shana told police Lane was following her, but she was sent a letter saying no further action would be taken.
On August 25, 2016 Lane broke into Shana’s home again with a knife and can of petrol. He walked into her bedroom and slashed her throat before dousing her body in petrol and setting it alight.
Lane was arrested within hours but denied killing her despite CCTV evidence proving he had been at her house. His trainers were found in a hedgerow nearby covered in blood and police found a tracker on Shana’s car, connected to his phone.
Shana’s family slammed the police, saying they believed her murder could have been prevented if officers had listened to her fears about Lane.
“We brought Shana up to respect authority and to always respect the law,” mum Sharon Grice said.
“We firmly believe her murder could have been prevented if her fears had been listened to and taken seriously by the police.”
At a subsequent enquiry PC John Milne was found guilty of gross misconduct and PC Godfrey of misconduct.
Assistant Chief Constable Nick May said in 2019: “We deeply regret the tragic death of Shana Grice in 2016 and are committed to constantly improving our understanding of stalking and our response to it.”
Sussex Police have apologised to Shana’s family.