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Nottingham attack families traumatised by ‘barbaric’ police WhatsApp message about killings | UK News

A police officer described the students stabbed to death in Nottingham last summer as “proper butchered” and said officers “tried to hold their inners in”.

Sky News can reveal the “disgusting” police WhatsApp message sent in the aftermath of the killings of Barnaby Webber and Grace O’Malley-Kumar on 13 June 2023.

Their families are horrified by the language used by an officer when discussing the stabbings with colleagues.

Valdo Calocane, 32, a paranoid schizophrenic, stabbed the two 19-year-olds to death as they walked home from a night out before flagging down and killing 65-year-old school caretaker Ian Coates.

At the time, one officer messaged colleagues on a WhatsApp group.

The message said: “So 2 students on Ilkeston road have been proper butchered, 4 section [officers] turned up and tried to hold their inners in. Suspects then made off and attacked a man in a car on magdala [road] and stabbed him to death.”

Another officer, PC Matt Gell, then shared the message outside of the police WhatsApp group with his wife and two friends.

More on Nottingham Attacks

The families of Barnaby and Grace learned of the contents of the message in February but were so disturbed by its contents that they have only felt comfortable publicising it now, despite the pain it causes them.

Grace’s father, Dr Sanjoy Kumar, said the message is “so disgusting”.

Undated handout photo issued by Nottinghamshire Police of Valdo Calocane. Prosecutors have accepted Calocane's pleas of not guilty to murder and guilty to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility due to mental illness, for the murders of Grace O'Malley-Kumar, Barnaby Webber and Ian Coates, and the attempted murder of three others, in a spate of attacks in Nottingham on June 13 2023. Issue date: Tuesday January 23, 2024.
Image:
Valdo Calocane was given a hospital order for the killings. Pic: PA

“Would anyone with a child, a mother, a relative use words like that?” he asked.

“Why have police in Nottinghamshire forgotten that these are our dear and beloved children they are referring to? I have tears in my eyes every time the message echoes in my head,” said Dr Kumar.

“The message is as barbaric as the crime for me.”

Nottinghamshire’s chief constable Kate Meynell acknowledged to Dr Kumar that some of the WhatsApp message was “crude and distasteful”.

‘Callous and degrading’

Emma Webber, Barnaby’s mother, has now written an open letter to the members of the WhatsApp group after requests to meet the officers involved were rejected by the force.

“The callous, degrading and desensitised manner of your comments have caused more trauma than you can imagine,” she wrote.

“When you say ‘a couple of students have been properly butchered’ did you stop to think about the absolute terror that they felt in the moment when they were ambushed and repeatedly stabbed by a man who had planned his attack and lay waiting in the shadows for them?

“When you say ‘innards out and everything’ did you think about the agony they felt and the final thoughts that went through their minds as this vicious individual inflicted wounds so serious that they had no chance of surviving?”

Ian Coates
Pic:Huntingdon Academy
Image:
Caretaker Ian Coates was also murdered in the rampage. Pic: Huntingdon Academy

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‘Murderers can get away with murder’ – victims’ families

Mrs Webber’s letter also calls for tougher action for the officer involved.

“Anyone who can witness the details of such a horror as happened… and refer to lost children as butchered animals; should seriously consider their position,” she says.

“So, to the author of that message, who we understand has received a management warning. I pray you will read this and pause for a while.

“Dig a little deeper for compassion and care. Show the respect in the future that you did not afford Barney.”

PC admits ‘lapse of judgement’

The officer who wrote the message did not face a misconduct hearing but received ‘management intervention’.

In January, PC Gell, who forwarded the message to people outside the force, was found guilty of gross misconduct and given a final written warning after he looked up records relating to Calocane when he had no part in the investigation.

Read more:
Prosecutors ‘correct’ to accept killer’s manslaughter plea
Victim’s mum ‘burst into tears’ when told of sentence review

Police forensics officers search a white van on the corner of Maples Street and Bentinck Road in Nottingham
Image:
Forensics officers at the scene after the June attacks. Pic: PA

The panel at the hearing agreed with his acknowledgement that he had “a lapse of judgement”.

A special constable was also sacked for viewing body-worn footage of the two students in their final moments.

Almost 180 police staff were found to have viewed material relating to the case, with 11 of them having no “legitimate reason” to do so.

Nottinghamshire Police referred itself to the Independent Office for Police Conduct after the families raised a number of concerns over the investigation and police conduct, including the force’s failure to inform relatives their Professional Standards Directorate was investigating officers.

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The College of Policing is also conducting a review of how the force handled the case.

Deputy Chief Constable Steve Cooper previously told Sky News that action over the WhatsApp message was taken “immediately”.

“Some of the words were crude and distasteful. It was a single message and no images were taken or shared,” he said.

Nicola Sturgeon not being investigated by police ‘at this time’ over ‘deleted’ pandemic WhatsApp messages | Politics News

Scottish police have told Sky News Nicola Sturgeon is not being investigated “at this time” after it emerged the former first minister wiped pandemic related WhatsApp messages.

The UK COVID Inquiry heard on Friday that everything sent and received by Ms Sturgeon during COVID-19 on the platform was erased.

She previously said she never used informal messages to make decisions throughout the crisis but was criticised by several political opponents who say she is attempting to hide exchanges with key ministers and advisers.

Jamie Dawson KC, counsel to the inquiry, said on Friday that a table submitted by the Scottish government confirmed that the WhatsApp messages were gone.

The former first minister hit back on Saturday and insisted the inquiry “does have messages” between her and those she communicated with.

Nicola Sturgeon MSP and John Swinney MSP during First Minster's Questions at the Scottish Parliament in Holyrood, Edinburgh. Picture date: Thursday January 11, 2024.Holyrood
Image:
Sturgeon and John Swinney MSP during First Minster’s Questions in Edinburgh

On X, Ms Sturgeon said: “In light of recent coverage, there are certain points I feel it important to make clear.

“Contrary to the impression given in some coverage, the inquiry does have messages between me and those I most regularly communicated with through informal means.”

She added: “Although these had not been retained on my own device, I was able to obtain copies which I submitted to the inquiry last year.

Read more from Sky News:
Scots share pandemic stories
PM appears at the COVID inquiry
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“To be clear, I conducted the COVID response through formal processes from my office in St Andrews House, not through WhatsApp or any other informal messaging platform. I was not a member of any WhatsApp groups.

“The number of people I communicated with through informal messaging at all was limited.

“Also, any handwritten notes made by me were passed to my private office to be dealt with and recorded as appropriate. Throughout the entire process, I acted in line with Scottish government policy.”

The Scottish COVID Bereaved group confirmed on Saturday evening it was “considering” lodging a formal police complaint against Ms Sturgeon.

The organisation, which is represented by lawyer Aamer Anwar, said it is likely to wait for the evidence of the former SNP leader to conclude before making its next move.

Sky News questioned Police Scotland about the matter on Saturday.

A spokesman replied: “At this time, we’ve nothing to indicate any police involvement or that this is a policing matter.”

Ms Sturgeon is due to give evidence directly to the UK inquiry in the coming weeks in Edinburgh.

Government accused of COVID inquiry ‘cover-up’ as legal battle beckons over Boris Johnson’s WhatsApp messages | Politics News

The government has been accused of an attempted “cover-up” as it bids to block the COVID inquiry’s request for Boris Johnson’s unredacted WhatsApp messages and notebooks.

Bereaved families and opposition parties criticised Prime Minister Rishi Sunak after the Cabinet Office revealed it was taking the unusual step of bringing a judicial review of Baroness Hallett’s order to release the documents.

It comes after Mr Johnson, the prime minister during the pandemic, said he was “more than happy” to adhere to the inquiry chairwoman’s request and hand over the material directly.

Ahead of a deadline of 4pm on Thursday to provide it, the Cabinet Office said it was bringing the judicial review challenge “with regret” and insisted it would “continue to co-operate fully with the inquiry before, during and after the jurisdictional issue in question is determined by the courts”.

The legal practice representing the COVID-19 Bereaved Families for Justice group, Broudie Jackson Canter, said the move showed “utter disregard for the inquiry”.

Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner accused the prime minister of “a desperate attempt to withhold evidence”.

“The public deserve answers, not another cover-up,” she added.

Liberal Democrats deputy leader Daisy Cooper said the government’s judicial review was a “kick in the teeth” for the bereaved families of the tens of thousands of people who died from COVID during the pandemic.

Read Adam Boulton’s analysis:
Politicians are drawn to WhatsApp – and it threatens us ever knowing the whole truth

The Cabinet Office’s argument is the documents and messages being sought by the inquiry are “unambiguously irrelevant” and cover matters “unconnected to the government’s handling of COVID”.

In a host of documents released as part of the legal proceedings, it emerged the WhatsApp messages given to the Cabinet Office by Mr Johnson are only from May 2021 onwards – more than a year after the pandemic began.

He was forced to change his mobile in 2021 after it emerged his number had been available online for 15 years.

The documents also included a list of 150 questions sent to Mr Johnson by the inquiry in February, including: “In or around autumn 2020, did you state that you would rather ‘let the bodies pile high’ than order another lockdown, or words to that effect? If so, please set out the circumstances in which you made these comments.”

He was also asked: “Between January and July 2020 did you receive advice from the then Cabinet Secretary that the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock MP, should be removed from his position? If so, why?”

A spokesman for the inquiry said more information about the Cabinet Office’s challenge would be provided at a preliminary hearing on 6 June.

Six officers from Greater Manchester Police disciplined over ‘racist and ableist’ WhatsApp messages | UK News

Six police officers have had misconduct claims proven against them following a watchdog’s investigation into “racist and ableist” messages.

The “abhorrent” messages, which included references to the Islamic festival of Eid, were sent to a WhatsApp chat shared by a group of officers from Greater Manchester Police.

The group chat – named “The Dispensables” – also contained ableist comments about people with autism, according to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC).

The messages were discovered as part of a separate inquiry into the supply of steroids by one of the group’s members.

IOPC regional director Catherine Bates described the messages as “inexcusable and abhorrent”.

“Messages sent via WhatsApp and on any form of social media cannot be a hiding place for officers with these types of views,” she said.

“Behaviour of this nature seriously undermines public confidence in policing. It is part of our role, and for police forces themselves, to ensure that it is rooted out and those responsible are held to account for their actions.

“The outcome sends a clear message that the use and failure to challenge offensive language is wholly unacceptable.”

Whatsapp logo is seen in this illustration taken, August 22, 2022. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

As part of the watchdog’s investigation into the messages, gross misconduct claims were proven against one officer, PC Rebekah Kelly, who has been dismissed from the force without notice.

Former PC Ashley Feest and PC Graham Atkinson admitted breaching the standards of behaviour, also at the level of gross misconduct.

A panel ruled that former PC Feest would have been dismissed without notice, had he not already resigned, while PC Atkinson was given a final written warning.

Read more:
Metropolitan Police is ‘institutionally racist, sexist and homophobic’
Three officers suspended over misogyny, racism and homophobia claims

PC Kelly and PC Feest had also been added to the police barred list, preventing them from serving as police officers, the IOPC said.

The investigation was launched during an inquiry into another officer, PC Aaron Jones, for supplying steroids. It was during that investigation that the messages were found.

PC Jones was sacked in December 2022 after a misconduct hearing found he had offered to supply steroids in January 2019.

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He had already been sentenced to a 12-month community order and 80 hours unpaid work in June 2022 after admitting two counts of offering to supply Class C drugs.

As part of the IOPC’s investigation into the WhatsApp messages, two other officers had misconduct meetings in August 2022.

One officer was found to have breached the standards of professional behaviour in relation to authority, respect and courtesy; conduct; equality and diversity; and challenging and reporting improper conduct and was given a written warning.

A sixth officer was found to have failed to challenge or report improper conduct and received management advice.

Sky News has contacted Greater Manchester Police for a comment.

Matt Hancock responds to leak of lockdown WhatsApp messages | Politics News

Matt Hancock has denounced what he said was a “massive betrayal and breach of trust” following the leaking of lockdown Whatsapp messages.

The exchanges were published in The Daily Telegraph after he shared them with journalist Isabel Oakeshott, who worked with the former health secretary on his Pandemic Diaries book.

In a lengthy statement, Mr Hancock denied sending a “menacing message” to Ms Oakeshott – a claim she made last night as she defended breaking a Non Disclosure Agreement (NDA) to leak the messages.

The MP said: “I am hugely disappointed and sad at the massive betrayal and breach of trust by Isabel Oakeshott. I am also sorry for the impact on the very many people – political colleagues, civil servants and friends – who worked hard with me to get through the pandemic and save lives.

“There is absolutely no public interest case for this huge breach. All the materials for the book have already been made available to the Inquiry, which is the right, and only, place for everything to be considered properly and the right lessons to be learned. As we have seen, releasing them in this way gives a partial, biased account to suit an anti-lockdown agenda.”

Last night, Ms Oakeshott insisted she gave messages to the Telegraph because of the “overwhelming” public interest and it was not about attacking the former health secretary.

She also claimed she received a “menacing message” from Mr Hancock when he found out about what she had done – but Mr Hancock said “this is wrong”.

He said: “Last night, I was accused of sending menacing messages to Isabel. This is also wrong. When I heard confused rumours of a publication late on Tuesday night, I called and messaged Isabel to ask her if she had ‘any clues’ about it, and got no response. When I then saw what she’d done, I messaged to say it was ‘a big mistake’. Nothing more.”

He said he would not be commenting further on any stories “or false allegations that Isabel will make”.

“I will respond to the substance in the appropriate place, at the inquiry, so that we can properly learn all the lessons based on a full and objective understanding of what happened in the pandemic, and why,” he said.

The first story from the tranche of messages broke last night in the Telegraph, alleging the former health secretary had rejected testing advice on care homes and expressed concern it could get in the way of meeting his targets.

The MP strongly denied the “distorted account”, with a spokesman alleging the conversations had been “spun to fit an anti-lockdown agenda”.

Speaking to TalkTV in her first interview since the article was published, Ms Oakeshott – who received the messages from Mr Hancock while working on his memoir with him – said she had signed an NDA and chose to break it “in the public interest” as it could be “a decade” before the official inquiry into COVID reports back.

She said: “The public interest is overwhelming. Whenever you break a big story which is in the national interest… it can be a rocky road, it can be a bumpy ride.

“I know I am going to get a few knocks over this [but] I am prepared to do this because I think the national interest is so utterly compelling.”

The journalist added: “This for me is not a personal thing about Matt Hancock.”