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Police officers dehumanised my children, says Archdeacon Smallman

30 June 2020

BBC

Archdeacon Smallman during her interview with the BBC, last Friday

Archdeacon Smallman during her interview with the BBC, last Friday

THE mother of two women who were stabbed to death in a London park earlier this month has said that the police officers who allegedly took “selfies” with the bodies had “dehumanised” her children.

The bodies of Nicole Smallman, 27, and her half-sister Bibaa Henry, 46, were found by Ms Smallman’s boyfriend in Fryent Country Park, Wembley, in London, on Sunday 7 June (News, 19 June). The women had been reported missing the previous day. They were the daughters of a former Archdeacon of Southend, the Ven. Wilhelmina Smallman, known as Mina, who retired last year.

Police believe that they were attacked by a stranger who left the scene bleeding. On Wednesday, an 18-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of both murders. He remains in custody.

Detective Chief Inspector Simon Harding, who is leading the investigation, said: “Given the significance of this development, we visited the family in person today to inform them of the arrest. Our thoughts remain with them at this very difficult time.”

Forensic officers had finished carrying out fingertip searches of the park, he said. Smaller searches in outer areas would continue. “I would continue to appeal to the public to come forward with any information they feel may be relevant to our investigation.”

In an interview with the BBC last Friday, Archdeacon Smallman, who organised the search for her daughters, described the moment when Nicole’s boyfriend, Adam, phoned to say that he had found the bodies and the murder weapon. She said: “All I remember is letting out a howl that came from the core of my soul.”

Senior officers of the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) and the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) later told her that officers had been seen posing and taking photographs with the bodies. Archdeacon Smallman was also told that the alleged photographs, which the family fear are on the internet, showed her daughters’ faces.

“Those police officers dehumanised our children,” she said. “This has taken our grief to another place. . .

“If ever we needed an example of how toxic it has become, those police officers felt so safe, so untouchable, that they felt they could take photographs of dead black girls and send them on. It speaks volumes of the ethos that runs through the Metropolitan Police. They were nothing to them, and, what’s worse, they sent them on to members of the public.”

Two police officers were arrested by the IOPC on Monday of last week and have since been suspended, a statement from the Metropolitan Police on Thursday of last week confirmed. The IOPC is investigating the incident.

The statement continued: “These are very serious allegations and the MPS has been and will continue to provide every possible support to the IOPC investigation team as they work to establish the facts.”

Commander Paul Brogden said: “If true, these actions are morally reprehensible, and anyone involved will be robustly dealt with. I am limited in terms of being able to comment further about the matter at this time in order not to compromise the IOPC investigation.”

The Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Dame Cressida Dick, told the BBC last Friday: “If it is as it appears to be, then it is shocking, it’s disgusting, and the whole of the Met would condemn what has happened here.”

Archdeacon Smallman said that she had organised a search for her daughters because the police had been “making assumptions”, and therefore did not immediately respond. “I knew instantly why they didn’t care. They didn’t care because they looked at my daughter’s address and thought they knew who she was. A black woman who lives on a council estate.”

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