Ex-Met chief disagrees that race did not influence failures in Nicole Smallman and Bibaa Henry investigation

A police watchdog investigation found that failings in the case were not due to ethnicity.

A former chief superintendent in the Metropolitan Police Service has said that if Bibaa Henry had been a white woman, the investigation into her disappearance would have been handled differently.

The Met has been advised to apologise to the family of Nicole Smallman and Bibaa Henry over how they handled missing person reports on the weekend they were murdered.

An investigation by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IPOC) found the level of service provided to their family and friends over the weekend following their disappearance was “unacceptable”.

But the report also found that “evidence did not indicate that this was a result of stereotyping or biased assumptions based on the sisters’ race or where they lived”.

Ex-Met police chief Dal Babu has disagreed with the findings.

He said on BBC’s Today Programme: “If this was a 40-year-old professional white woman, I question whether we would have had the delay and difficulties we have had.

“If that was a white woman social worker reported missing, these people would have had more influence. So I’m not sure I agree with the analysis.”

Bibaa Henry and Nicole Smallman were murdered by 19-year-old Danyal Hussein while celebrating Bibaa’s birthday in a park in Wembley in the early hours of 6 June, 2020. 

Hussein attacked the sisters with a knife and hid their bodies in undergrowth.

Despite numerous calls to police about the disappearance of the sisters on 6 June, the missing persons investigation was not progressed by police.

At around lunchtime on Sunday, 7 June some of those closest to the sisters went to the park to carry out their own search.

They found glasses belonging to both Bibaa and Nicole, as well as a knife. They called the police to report what they had found, and while on the phone, the bodies of the sisters were discovered.

IPOC Regional Director for London Sal Naseem said: “Had the MPS focused on progressing the missing persons investigation it may have prevented the further distress caused to Nicole and Bibaa’s loved ones, who made the harrowing discovery after organising their own search party.”

As part of the investigation, the IOPC questioned the officers about whether ethnicity or the area the sisters lived had affected decision-making.

The watchdog also checked police radio transmissions for any relevant discussions and to identify if any stereotyped assumptions had been made, but said they found no evidence to support this.

The Met agreed with the findings from the report, saying that the standard of the investigation was below what it should have been but that there was no suggestion racial bias played any part in how the missing persons reports were dealt with.

They said that no misconduct was found for an officer and two members of police staff but there will be action taken over their performance, which was found to be inadequate.

Commissioner Cressida Dick said: “My thoughts and deepest sympathies are with the family and friends of Nicole and Bibaa for their tragic losses.

“The way we responded to information that Nicole and Bibaa were missing that weekend was below the standard we should have achieved and compounded the distress felt by their loved ones.

“While we know that very sadly Nicole and Bibaa had been murdered in the early hours of Saturday, 6 June 2020, before they were reported missing, if we had responded better we may have saved their friends and family immeasurable pain.

“I am very sorry that the level of service we provided fell short. We have contacted the family to ask if they will allow me or, if they prefer, another senior officer to visit them at a time that is right to apologise in person.”

Alexandra Warren is a freelance journalist.

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