Police failed to stop man setting mother-in-law alight after six calls for helpMay 23, 2020
Police failed to stop a ‘monstrous’ killer from burning his mother-in-law to death, despite receiving six calls from worried family members begging for help.
Kieren Lynch, 50, murdered Jennifer Cronin, 72, by running into her garden, dousing her with petrol and torching her and himself on March 13, 2018. The cocaine addict launched his attack after his estranged ex-wife Susan asked for a divorce.
She was forced to watch in horror as her mother was set alight at the home in Benfleet, Essex. Ms Cronin suffered burns to 33% of her body and passed away 17 days later. At the time Lynch was on bail for criminal damage after attacking his ex-partner’s home with a hammer and threatening to kill her.
Shockingly the bricklayer had been breaching his bail conditions by bombarding his estranged family with calls and messages, yet he was not arrested and not deemed by authorities to be a stalker.
A probe into the death found that in early March Essex Police were called six times over Lynch’s campaign of terror. Officers were even called in the ‘early hours’ of the day of the killing and were warned he could harm Ms Cronin.
The damning domestic homicide review slammed the police force for allowing Lynch to slip through the net and found there was ‘absence of proactive responses to breaches of bail and a lack of understanding of which officers should be responsible for this’.
Just over two years after the killing, the report has finally been published. It says Lynch’s pattern of behaviour ‘amounted to stalking and should have been identified and pursued as such by police’.
It added: ‘This could have led to more action in response to opportunities to hold [him] 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 [Ms Cronin], who [Lynch] was now also contacting.’
The review 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 regarding breaches of domestic abuse offences’.
The latest report also found police ‘failed to recognise and record further offences (other than breach of bail) during contact in the week prior to the homicide’, and that they didn’t ‘identify children within homes where offences took place’.
An inquest held in January 2019 into both deaths recorded a narrative verdict with Ms Cronin unlawfully killed and Lynch committing suicide.
Its verdict found risks posed by Lynch were continually not assessed and that attempted arrests were not carried out in a ‘timely and efficient manner’.
It said there was a lack of ‘efficient cooperation’ between police and other agencies through ‘poorly defined areas of responsibilities’.
Lynch sustained burns to 96 per cent of his body and died on the day of the attack.
At the inquest Susan described her husband of 25 years, as a ‘a monstrous person, quite aggressive, quite violent at home’.
Recalling the attack, she said: ‘It happened quickly, it was so sudden. Kieren came running down the garden and he had a knife in his hand, it seemed to me it was a little bit bigger than a kitchen knife.
‘He had it in his right hand and ran with it up, screaming, talking, swearing, saying horrible things. He was running at her, he had petrol, I saw a petrol can and he threw it in her face.
‘Then she cowered down with her hands down screaming, he stood there and threw it over her head.
‘I could see there were flames on his clothes, it was a small piece of fire on his arm or square I’m not sure.’
The couple’s daughter, Molly, told the inquest police had ignored their calls. She added: ‘It was almost like nothing was going to be done until he did something to someone or to himself.’
Essex Police has apologised for the failings and claims it has reviewed its training around domestic abuse cases.
Chief Superintendent Steve Worron said: ‘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.’