hidden homicides

Hidden in plain sight

Hidden in plain sight

The life and death of 21-year-old Katie Wilding, and her mother’s remarkable fight against the police

Above: Julie Aunger at the sea front in Paignton in Devon. Right: Her daughter Katie.


Transcript

[Clip: Katie Wilding’s police interview]

Louise Tickle: This is Katie.

She’s 21, and she works in a local hairdressers in a seaside town in Devon. 

And to me she looks so young. She’s got fading purple dip-dye hair. 

And today she’s pulling on her sleeves, nervously. 

She’s nervous, because what you’re listening to is her talking to the police, properly, for the first time – about her boyfriend. 

A man who’s 12 years older than her, called Mitchell Richardson. 

And this is a huge step for Katie. 

She’s just been seriously assaulted by Mitchell Richardson. And everyone knew that Katie was at extremely high risk from his abusive behaviour. 

He’d made death threats to Katie before, and to her mum. They were vicious, and they were detailed, and they were scary. 

So, why… when Katie and Mitchell Richardson were found dead in his flat, did the police not seriously investigate her death as a potential homicide?

[Clip: Julie Aunger, Katie’s mum]

Well, to answer this question, I’m going to need to take you on a pretty dark journey through the British justice system. 

And I’m going to need to introduce you to other victims, too, and their families.

Their stories tell us that something is going badly wrong in how we police domestic abuse. 

I’m Louise Tickle, and you’re listening to Hidden Homicides, a podcast series from Tortoise Media. 

In this series I investigate three remarkable cases about women who may have been killed, but never counted. In a fourth case, I expose how failings in the system leave a family’s questions unanswered forever.

And of course, I need to warn you: this episode – and this series – will detail distressing cases of violence, coercion and controlling behaviour against women. Some of it is difficult to hear. Listener discretion is advised.

But it’s important we really go into this – even when it’s difficult to read, and even when it’s difficult to listen to. Because this is a problem that’s bigger than anyone really realises.

I’ve been reporting on domestic abuse for over a decade now. I’ve interviewed scores of victims, and in the very worst circumstances, their families who are just… broken. 

There are some moments I’ll never forget. Six years ago I sat in the kitchen of a woman called Jeannette Chambers while she shook herself – almost off her chair – with the trauma of telling me how her sister Christine, and two year old niece, Shania, had been killed by Christine’s ex, Shania’s dad. 

I just remember how on that day, Jeannette was trembling so hard she could hardly hold her cigarette as she told me how the police had known this man’s abuse was escalating to dangerous levels. They had been called out loads of times. But somehow… somehow… Christine was never classified as high risk. 

And one night, her ex let himself into her house with a key he’d kept and then he shot Christine and her daughter. 

Since then I have written about how charges of domestic violence are frequently downgraded. I’ve written about how courts impose just offensively short sentences even when judges have every justification to impose longer terms. 

And now, I’ve turned my attention to hidden homicides.

I first heard about it last February, and from that point on the idea of women’s deaths, unseen, uncounted, has haunted me….

I knew I had to try to find out the true scale of what is a hidden problem, and I had to find a way to shout about it.

[Clip: Jess Phillips reading names of women killed by men in the House of Commons]

Every year, something called the Femicide Census releases a count of every woman in the UK known to have been killed by a man. It names them too – and the MP Jess Phillips reads them out in the House of Commons. 

[Clip: Jess Phillips reading names of women killed by men in the House of Commons]

It says that on average – a woman is killed by a man every three days. But the frightening thing is, these are just the deaths we know about… and we know about them, because they’ve been investigated by police and classed as homicides – either murder or manslaughter. 

As one expert criminologist, Professor Jane Monkton-Smith, told me: when you count hidden homicides, the number could be much higher. Double the number of killings we know about, she suggests is possible. 

In 2018, the Femicide Census counted 91 women had been killed by a current or former intimate partner. Double that is 182. One woman killed every other day, for a year.

But we don’t know the actual total of domestic abuse deaths because … as you’ll hear… not all of them are classed as manslaughter or murder.

And that, to me, seemed just… intolerable. How could we not know this? How is this not being counted? By the police, by the Home Office… by anyone?

And over months of investigating, a clearer picture has emerged of what is going wrong. And I’ve got closer to finding out the number that no one seemed to know. 

In this series, you’ll hear about what happened to Katie Wilding and her mum, Julie, and you’ll hear about other victims, and other remarkable parents, who have fought – who are fighting now – for justice.

[Clip: montage of families and Jane Monckton Smith]

So, join me. 

This is a national scandal, hidden from view. 

And we’re going to try to bring it into the open.

***

Jane Monckton Smith: Well, I joined the police service when I was 18 and a half very young, and it was a baptism of fire and it was certainly. I’ll tell you what it really was: a brutal education in sexual politics.

This is Professor Jane Monckton Smith. A former police officer turned independent investigator and a forensic criminologist. 

For years, Jane worked the beat as a patrol officer. She was often one of the first people on the scene of a crime. And she saw, up close, how the police were getting things… very wrong … particularly when it came to female victims. 

Jane: During my time as a police officer, I became very aware of how we justify violence and it really concerned me. I didn’t like it because there just seemed to be so many justifications and excuses for violence that were part of our criminal justice system that were so discriminatory. And actually put women, especially, at a huge amount of risk. Because all of these defenses, if you like, are sitting there boxed, ready to go – you can almost go to the shelf and say, “right, we’re going to use the, um, yeah, she was wearing a short skirt one” – bang, there on the table, there it is. And everyone just goes along with it. And that really, really concerned me. And that never went away either. 

Jane realised that the police just weren’t set up properly to prevent or prosecute domestic abuse. 

They didn’t understand it very well, and they didn’t understand the victims either. They were missing warning signs, red flags, and they had a very particular idea – the wrong idea really – of what a victim should be like. 

Jane: I remember the very first domestic abuse call I went to, and I went out with my Sergeant on this day. The paramedics were there before us and the perpetrator had fled the scene.

So the only person there was the victim and she was about 16, 17. So she’s sitting in a chair, there’s like blood coming down the back of her neck, and she’s just sitting there in total silence. And these two paramedics are saying, “come and get in the ambulance, let us take you to a hospital”. Because she’d been hit in the head with a lump hammer.

It’s not even that she said, no, she just didn’t say anything. She just sat there and refused to engage with any of us. So, you know, there was no way she was going to engage with us as police officers, because we would have been saying things like, “well, are you going to make a statement? Are you going to let us arrest him?” You know, all, all of this stuff that would actually probably make the situation worse. 

So we left after a while. All of us. And, you know, as we’re walking out, I said to my Sergeant – and he was lovely, such a kind man – I said, “what’s going on? You know, why wouldn’t she get in the ambulance? I don’t understand.” 

And he said, “well, get used to it, Jane. It’s what they’re like.” 

After a few years, Jane left the police. She had children and then she went to university and trained in forensic criminology. Now, she not only specialises in why people kill – she does deep dives into individual case files, trying to understand where we’re going wrong in policing domestic abuse.  

She spends hours, on the phone to the families of victims, to police and coroners and prosecutors, persuading them to look again at cases where something crucial might have been missed. 

She knows more about this problem than anyone. And so, after I saw her tweets last year and got in touch with her about hidden homicides, it was she who first told me about Katie Wilding.

And last summer, she introduced me to Katie’s mum, Julie…. 

Julie is a formidable woman. She’s strong, energetic, she’s devastated, she’s funny as hell… and my god, she’s determined. 

Her story, Katie’s story, is where my own sprawling journey into this world really began. 

After Jane put me in touch, I had a long, long chat with Julie on the phone. It took quite a few cups of tea to get through it. And then I drove south to meet her in her hometown on the Devon coast, in the cafe she’s named after her daughter. Literally, it’s called “Our Katie’s Tea and Coffee House”. 

I was there for hours. And it quickly became clear to me: this was far more than just a story about a young woman in an abusive relationship.

As I sat in her cafe and looked through Julie’s pink ring-binder file and its multiple tabs organising the documentation she had gathered about her daughter’s death. 

And going through the file, something suddenly struck me: there seemed to be a total disconnect between different police departments.

On the one hand, the public protection team in Devon & Cornwall Police which deals with domestic abuse had obviously understood that the danger Katie was in from her ex-boyfriend was genuine, and required action – which they took. And yet, the police officers attending the scene on the morning of Katie’s death, seemed oblivious to the many red flags…

[Clip: door knock]

So I went back again

I needed to know more from Julie about what exactly had happened to her daughter, what the police knew, and when. 

[Clip: background arrival noise]

I arrive at her home, in a lovely terrace of pastel painted houses. Julie takes us through to a room at the back. There are pictures of her daughters, all four of them, adorning the walls. This room we’re in used to be Katie’s bedroom. Now, it’s a living room – with doors out into the garden. 

And she starts to tell me about Katie. Actually, it pours out of her. 

Louise: I think this might be really difficult. Can you tell me a bit about what Katie was like? 

Julie: That’s not difficult. Katie is the youngest of my four children. I say “is” because until we stop talking about her and until people stop remembering her with love, she still exists.

She was the only blonde one with blue eyes. She was my absolute baby. The other girls would tell you she was spoiled. I slightly disagree. She, you know, they’ll tell you she was the favorite. Happy stories of Katie as a child… Silly – this is why the girls think she’s spoiled – silly things like whoever’s birthday it was Katie would have to blow the candles out as well. And we let her. You know, silly stories like that. She was bright. She was very shy as a child. We found out that she had, she needed special glasses that had colored tints. She wasn’t long or shortsighted, but she had those. And then she started to come out of her shell.

Julie plays a home video for us. 

[Clip: home video and conversation playing in the background] 

It’s Katie, aged 10, at her end of primary school leavers concert, playing the drums. 

She’s at the back, tucked away. The camera settles on her, and you can see she’s really craning to find her mum in the crowd. 

Suddenly, this little girl sees her mum, and she breaks into a gigantic smile.

It’s just like the sun coming out.

Julie: At the age of 13 she got her first job at a paper round. And again, the others will tell you that yeah, okay, most of the time I drove her around the paper round because she would be running late. But that’s what we mums do… But she stuck that out for 18 months. In actual fact… 

You can tell Julie means what she says, it isn’t difficult for her to talk about Katie. 

Julie digs out more old home videos, and one stands out. It’s a CD actually. An eleventh birthday present which Julie gave to her daughter: she bought her some time in a professional recording studio.

[Clip: Katie singing]

She’s singing Lily Allen’s song ‘Smile’. It’s difficult to listen to now. 

The lyrics describe an ex who makes Lily Allen’s life miserable. And it darkly parallels what happened later in Katie’s life. 

[Clip: Katie singing]

Katie met Mitchell Richardson a few weeks after she got home from Australia. She’d started back working at the hairdressers, and he came up to introduce himself – he’d been watching her all week, he said. Katie, she was just 19, and she was swept off her feet. But Julie wasn’t sure. 

Something felt.. off to her. 

Julie: He tried too hard. He tried, he was desperately trying to sell himself to us. By the time we met him, we knew that he was 31 and that Katie was, she was only 19. She told… he’d already moved in. He moved in after three weeks, giving her some tale that he was being evicted, could he just come and stay, you know, until it was, he was, sorted. It wasn’t a permanent thing just to come and stay. We knew by the time we met him that he’d had a, he’d got a tag on his foot for violence. He told Katie that he’d had a phone call from his ex-girlfriend to come and help, somebody was trying to break in. 

So the story he gave Katie was that he went round to the flat. There was a man there and it was self-defense. He was trying to get the man out. There was a fight, ascuffle, but he said nobody had listened. You’ve got arrested. The judge didn’t listen. And they’ve given him a tag.

The reality to that was he’d gone round to try and win his girlfriend back, found a man there, there was a fight. He knocked the man out and continued to beat him after he was knocked out. So not quite the act of self-defense. And we knew this when we met him. Did I like him or dislike him? I don’t know, because I didn’t feel at that point we’d met the real person.

He was just obviously playing a role.

Louise: When did you first become aware that he was abusing her in some way?

Julie: Okay, very early on. I’d say within the first two months, I had a phone call from my friend whose salon it was that Katie worked in. She’d gone into work, and it was probably about mid morning. And, um, my friend Debbie said that she used to come in in tears sometimes or very quiet – and Katie was very bouncy. But this one day she’d gone to work and he had come in… and there was a barber’s side and a hairdressing side. Katie was doing the lady’s hair and he came in very angry.

So he called Katie over. She went to see him and he was towering over her, which he did, but he had his finger in her face, he was shouting and very abusive to her. And it got to the point that two men on the barber’s side got up to say, “get out, you know, leave her alone”. He spat in her face. And Katie was crying and he threw a set of keys at her, which caught her face, and left.

And Katie was so embarrassed and absolutely devastated, but immediately started to say it was her fault because she’d got up, she’d had all of the milk and there was no milk for his coffee. And apparently that’s what had caused it. But she couldn’t see that in no way was that any excuse for that kind of behavior.

And that set the alarm bells off.

Julie and her husband – Katie’s dad, though not her biological father – soon found out Mitchell Richardson was an alcoholic. They also found out that he was dealing – and taking – lots of drugs. 

As time went on, Julie half-heard about more and more worrying incidents.

Then Katie was signed off from work with anxiety and depression. 

But the saving grace for Julie at that time was that she was still in contact with her daughter. She was still able to see her. 

Julie: I felt we had to be civil to the man because for some reason, Katie was allowed to come to me. She lost her friends because she wasn’t allowed to see them. She didn’t go to work because she was signed off with anxiety and depression. So the only person she could escape to was me. 

So I felt that we had to be civil. It was the most difficult thing, knowing that he was hurting her. Um, but I felt if we weren’t civil or if we put him down too often, we’d lose her completely. Which now sounds very difficult because we have lost her completely.

Anyone with experience of watching a domestically abusive relationship is going to recognise this kind of behaviour. 

Abuse doesn’t have to be violent: controlling and coercive behaviour is now a crime, and there were nearly 18,000 offences of coercive control recorded by police in 2019 – twice as many as the year before.

So, by now the alarm bells were ringing for Julie. But Katie was sticking with her boyfriend.

And then, for a while, things seemed steadier. Not great, but steadier. 

It was after they’d been together for around 18 months that things really began to deteriorate – and Katie was turning up for help from her mum and dad, more and more. 

Julie: It started through the summer of 2016. Katie would often phone or text – usually phone late at night – and say “he’s escalating, he’s drunk, he’s taking drugs, I need to get away, I need to let him calm down.” And she’d ask, could she come and stay? Generally in her pyjamas. And she had to FaceTime him all night just to prove she was here and that she wasn’t out with anybody. He would let her come in her pyjamas so that he knew she was coming – well, he assumed she was coming here. We started to keep a secret suitcase so that she had clothes in there, underwear, make up…

His behaviour was increasingly controlling, and it was getting frightening. And again, it’ s really important to make clear, so much of this behaviour is textbook abuse. I’ve come across these signs time and time again in my reporting.  

Intense jealousy, demanding money, vicious verbal abuse, getting threats, physical assaults… it’s all a massive red flag for domestic homicide. 

And the thing is – this is common. 1.6 million women aged 16 to 74 experienced domestic abuse in the year between 2018 and 2019. But that’s only the cases that were registered as crimes.

We know that only around 18% of women who experience domestic abuse ever report it to police. The problem is bigger than we know. 

Julie: Then in October, it was the 8th of October, Katie again phoned to say could she come? And it was, it was probably about 10 o’clock at night, 11 o’clock at night, and I was in bed and Andy was downstairs. I was in bed. And I said “I’ll go and open the front door for you, how long are you going to be?” She went “I’m on my way”. So I got up, went to the front door, unlocked it, sat in here with Andy for a bit and it got to midnight.

So I phoned her and said, “where are you?” And she said, “oh, it’s settling down. He’s okay. I probably won’t come” and I’m like, “please come. Just come” … “No, no, no, no, no. He’s all right. He’ll go to sleep in a minute. He’ll be alright. He’ll go to sleep.” 

Early one in the evening, Katie had phoned me and said, um, “I need to leave him. Can you help me?”

Louise: And so you knew that she was planning to leave him?

Julie: Definitely. Yes. That was her intent because she had no control of money. She had no money. So she asked if I would be able to help her with a deposit, rent and just to get her in. So I was thrilled, absolutely thrilled. 

Unfortunately, what is often seen as a moment of freedom, is actually the most dangerous time in an abusive relationship. 

When a woman decides to leave a controlling man, it can be a serious escalation point. And that’s something Jane Monkton-Smith, the forensic criminologist, is very clear on. 

Jane: So if somebody has been in this controlling relationship, they are controlled, they can’t escape. That could go on for 50 years. But this person decides, “I’ve had enough – I’m leaving.” That’s the biggest trigger. That’s the biggest trigger for homicide, all of them. 

But Julie, of course, didn’t know this. Why would she? 

She was just thrilled, and excited for Katie. Her daughter was finally free…

Julie: And she said, “would you come and view it with me?” So of course, what, whatever we can do, this is amazing. So it was later that same night, on the Saturday, and it was very late at night. Katie phoned and said, “can I come and stay? He’s gone absolutely mad mum, I’m coming.” So I’m back downstairs, I’m pacing, waiting for her to come. And it was about an hour later that we had a phone call from Katie to say that she was downstairs – because the landlord lived on site – she was in the landlord’s flat. There were three or four policemen upstairs trying to arrest Mitchell. And I could hear the noise. I could hear him. I could hear the police. I could hear it was very loud – kicking off. And she was on the floor downstairs. Mitchell was upstairs. Katie was in tears… “He’s hit me. He’s hit me.” 

I spoke to the police and they said they thought that Katie’s nose and jaw were broken. They were trying to persuade her to go to the hospital, but all she wanted was to come here. So eventually they brought her here. It was about three in the morning.

This was an important moment. 

It’s important because it was the first time the police were called, the first time the police knew Mitchell Richardson was a danger to Katie.

Julie: He drank most of a bottle of Jack Daniels. He took, I think it was 20 valium in front of her. And he started to beat her. Um, the neighbors called the police, underneath, and said that, yes, they heard him hitting before, but this time they were frightened for her life.

So the police were called anyway. They arrived. One of them grabbed Katie – literally. And took her downstairs to the landlord’s flat. It took three of them with pepper spray. He didn’t apparently react to the pepper spray because he was so high. Um, but they arrested him. They took him to the police station, brought Katie here.

So that’s when we found out that Katie had a tracker on her phone. He didn’t, he bought her a phone and installed a tracker device, and she was adamant that it was to protect her. 

Even then, Katie refused to press charges against her ex-boyfriend. He went free, but the threats? They just grew.

I asked Julie to tell me about what Mitchell Richardson had said to her – how he had threatened her. And just a warning, it is extremely graphic – and involves threats of rape. 

Julie: The worst one… he asked Katie to ask me for £300. And he said to Katie, this is a week later, he said to Katie: “What I’m going to do is, I’m going to kill you. I’m going to go and find your mum. I’m going to rape her. And whilst I’m raping her, I’m going to tell her what I’ve done to you. And then I’m going to go away with that £300 I’m going to buy enough drugs to kill myself. And won’t it be funny that it’s your mum’s money that killed us all?” 

That was the worst one. Um… generally it was just to come and attack me. Hit me, beat me. Because I think he knew I was Katie’s vulnerable point. 

Louise: Well let’s go back to that week where she’s in her flat. And it wasn’t long before he managed to persuade her to see him again. 

Julie: Yeah, when Katie turned her phone off on that Monday, he started to phone me in the afternoon.

And I wrote everything down because he was breaking his bail conditions. And in one way I was quite pleased that he’d phoned me because I thought – this is it, he’ll get taken back into custody. We’ll have a chance to, to keep her safe. So I wrote everything down that he said, it was about a 45 minute conversation.

And he was determined that I should tell him where Katie was. Obviously I’m not going to. He was determined that I was going to go and smash Katie’s phone up. He wouldn’t tell me why, except that something bad was on it, and if I didn’t smash her phone up, then something bad would happen to Katie.

When I asked what did he mean, He said: “well, the police will be involved.” 

That was on the Monday. I reported it on the Monday afternoon to the police. And all of the threats that he’d made to Katie. And the police told me that the team that were dealing with Katie weren’t on for two days. They were on rest days. But they would put a note on the file so that when they came in on Wednesday something would happen. 

This was only a couple of days after that first call to the police. 

Whoever took Julie’s call told her they would put a note on the file so it could be dealt with when the team came back on Wednesday. 

Wednesday? It was Monday. That was a mistake. A big one. 

Given what he’d just done, Mitchell Richardson’s threats to kill should have been taken seriously straight away. It seems obvious to me –  surely it should have been obvious to anyone. 

Julie: I just accepted it. I was brought up to believe the police are to be respected and believed, and that they know what they’re doing and that they always do the right thing. It never entered my mind. That was the wrong thing that they told me. I just accepted it. Okay, I’ll speak to them on Wednesday then. I believed Katie was safe. We knew he didn’t know where Katie was. Katie had blocked his number. So, we just accepted it. Now looking back… hindsight again, isn’t it?

Mitchell Richardson had broken his conditional bail – and Julie was hoping he’d be taken into custody. She was hoping that her daughter might finally be safe. 

But a couple of days later, Katie went off the grid. 

Julie couldn’t get hold of her. She sent messages but there was no reply. 

Things had been bad, but never like this. 

Julie: I couldn’t get hold of Katie all morning. So I got to the point that I thought, I’ll call Mitchell. And his phone was also switched off and I started to get a bit panicky. So I went round to the flat and there’s nobody there at Katie’s flat. So I’m now panicking. Her car was gone. So I got to the police station and told them that I couldn’t get hold of them.

And they really, really started to get worried now. They took it very seriously and they sent another team. Actually the guy that was going to interview me because he knew what Mitchell looked like, they sent him out to look as well. And I was at the police station for a good two or three hours giving a statement.

And they were coming back in all of the time to update us. And they got me to send Katie some text messages. And while I was there, a text message came back from Katie that was like, “oh it’s Katie,” but it wasn’t Katie. You could tell it wasn’t her style of writing. There were no kisses. I’ve been leaving frantic messages all morning.

And all it said was “I’m okay. What’s the problem?”

So the police actually said that’s Mitchell. We believe that to be Mitchell. So we kept trying and the phone was switched off after that.

They were missing for two days. Couldn’t find them for two days. We were all looking. The police were out looking, they had the car registration, the AMPR… that was all out. Everyone was checking CCTV. They were out. 

Louise: So they were taking it very seriously?

Julie: Very seriously. 

Louise: They knew she was at risk?

Julie: Well, at this time, she was also involved with the MARAC, which is the Multi-Agencies. And they had stated that she was, um, at high risk.

Just to be clear, what Julie is describing is a MARAC – a Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conference. Only the highest risk domestic abuse victims get referred to these. 

Julie: So Friday morning, it was early for Katie. It’s about 7:30 in the morning. We were just getting ready for work or to go out and my phone rings and it’s Katie’s phone again. And it just said, “can you please pay £200 into my bank account? I’ll pay you back later when I get paid.” No kisses, no nothing. And again, it’s like, that’s not Katie. And if it is Katie, something’s wrong, obviously, but she’s trying to tell me something. 

So Andy, Katie’s dad, decided he’d go and search for her himself.

Julie: So Andy drove to Mitchell’s flat in Paignton, where they both lived: no cars. He drove to Katie’s flat in Torquay and Mitchell’s car was parked outside. So he did absolutely the right thing and he phoned me to phone the police. He said, “I’m going to go, because if I stay here, I’m going to go up into the flat, it will end nastily. So I’m going to go, tell me when the police are on the way.” 

So he waited for the police to arrive, but he left and I’m so proud of him for that. Sounds a bit weird, but I’m so proud.

The police, as I say, it’s an intercom, so they managed to try and get somebody to let them in. And they raced up the three flights of stairs. And Katie said to me after, when she heard those footsteps coming up the stairs, she realised it was the police because there was a lot of them coming and she realised that there was a chance she’d live to see me again.

It was… she knew how bad it was. He basically had her for 36 hours. He’d sent her a message in the middle of the night saying he was cold. He was tired. He couldn’t go home because the police were looking for him. He knew that. If you promise to behave… he loved her. Could she let him in for a cup of tea and they’d talk, but he promised to behave and be, you know, be good.

So, in her 21 year old wisdom, she gave him the address and he’d been there for about 36 hours. The minute he walked in the flat, he started beating her. When they arrested him, they phoned me and said, “Julie come now, she’s in a way, a bad state, come now.”

And that policeman that was with her when I got there said, “I genuinely believe if we hadn’t got here when we did, she’d be dead.”

Mitchell Richardson was arrested and taken into police custody. 

This time, Katie agreed to give a statement. The police asked if it could be recorded on video.

Julie has allowed us to play some of this video. 

It is a difficult listen – but it’s important that you hear it. 

It gives a clear indication of what the police knew – and the extent of the abuse Katie was suffering. 

It provides clear evidence of just how scared she was, and how high her level of risk was.

By this point Mitchell Richardson had been arrested and was about to be questioned. He had broken his bail conditions when he contacted Katie and Julie, and had threatened to kill them both. 

He had kept Katie hostage for hours while assaulting her. 

All within the space of one week.

Katie knew how bad it was and she was ready to talk. 

So, here they are. These are the words of Katie Wilding on 14th October 2016. 

[Clip: Katie’s police interview, during which she describes Mitchell’s recent and past abusive behaviour, his threats to kill her and her belief that he could possibly do it]

Katie should have been safe from that point. The police knew that she was in grave danger. She had told them, clearly and bravely. 

But a month later, her mum would receive a knock on the door – a knock that changed everything.  

If you’d like to read more about Katie Wilding’s case, and about our investigation into Hidden Homicides, you can go to tortoisemedia.com/hiddenhomicides to find out more. 

In the next episode: Julie fights the police for a proper investigation into her daughter’s death; and we investigate a new case – of a murderer, twice missed. 

This series was reported by me, Louise Tickle, and produced by Matt Russell, with additional reporting by Claudia Williams and Patricia Clarke. The editor was Basia Cummings, with original music by Tom Kinsella.

If you’ve been affected by anything in this podcast, please head to the website for the charity Advocacy After Fatal Domestic Abuse; the address is www.aafda.org.uk



Portrait by Tom Pilston; picture of Katie Wilding courtesy of Julie Aunger.

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A killer, twice missed

A killer, twice missed

How a police force’s failure to notice a pattern led to two tragic deaths

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