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A Woman Killed By Her Husband Had Called Police Nine Times Before Her Death

Anne-Marie Birch was strangled by her estranged husband in 2013.

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Anne-Marie and Lee Birch outside the pub they ran in Westgate-on-Sea /

Anne-Marie and Lee Birch outside the pub they ran in Westgate-on-Sea

A woman strangled by her estranged husband had contacted police on nine separate occasions to raise concerns about his behaviour, the Independent Police Complaints Commission has found.

Anne-Marie Birch, 47, was killed in a field near her home in Ramsgate, Kent, in November 2013. Lee Birch, 55, admitted manslaughter and was jailed for life in April 2014.

She had contacted Kent police at 8:30am on the day of her murder to report her husband hiding in her back garden, but the call was answered by a trainee handler and was not properly logged.

In its report released on Thursday, the police watchdog said "several" calls to police should have been handled better.

The IPCC said officers who spoke to Anne-Marie prior to a non-molestation order (NMO) being issued failed to identify the harassment and death threats she was being subjected to by her husband. She had told him the previous summer their marriage was over.

After the NMO had been taken out, officers still told Anne-Marie they could not take action until the order had officially appeared on their systems.

This was despite the fact Birch had written a threatening note on the physical copy of the order he had been presented with, and posted it through Anne-Marie's door.

Police at the scene where Anne-Marie Birch's body was found. /

Police at the scene where Anne-Marie Birch's body was found.

Eight officers and three civilian call centre workers have undergone specialist training as a result of the IPCC's report, and 12 recommendations made have been accepted, including improving awareness of NMOs, and ensuring frontline staff are familiar with policies on harassment and death threats.

"Ultimately it is Lee Birch who takes full responsibility for the campaign of harassment against Anne-Marie which culminated in her tragic death," said IPCC commissioner Mary Cunneen.

Kent police said the IPCC report made "disappointing reading".

"We aim to put victims at the heart of everything we do and clearly there were steps we could have taken to improve the service Anne-Marie received when she had concerns about her estranged husband’s behaviour," a spokesperson said.

"As soon as it became clear there were areas needing improvement, those improvements were made and they have been in place for a significant period of time."

The spokesperson added: "While Kent police recognises it could have offered a better service to Anne-Marie, it became clear in our investigation that her estranged husband had a very determined and clear intention to do her serious harm.

"Our sympathies remain with her family and those who were close to her."

Matthew Champion is a deputy world news editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Matthew Champion at

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