No evidence of misconduct by officers before woman fatally shot

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) says it has found no evidence to indicate any potential misconduct by officers prior to the fatal shooting of Sabina Rizvi 21 years ago.

Mar 26, 2024
By Paul Jacques

However, its re-investigation into the contact police officers had with Ms Rizvi shortly before she was murdered identified “some issues” around police actions.

An inquest, held at the Old Bailey, determined Ms Rizvi was unlawfully killed.

Ms Rizvi was fatally shot as she drove away from Bexleyheath police station, southeast London, with her boyfriend Mark Williams, who was seriously injured in the incident on March 20, 2003.

Paul Asbury was convicted of her murder, and the attempted murder of Mr Williams, in 2004.

Hours before the shooting, Mr Williams had been arrested by Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) officers on suspicion of vehicle theft.

In 2011, an investigation was carried out by the IOPC’s predecessor – the IPCC – into a complaint made by Ms Rizvi’s family that a police officer either negligently or intentionally, had tipped off the killer.

This found no indication any officer breached professional behaviour standards or committed a criminal offence.

Following the decision in 2019 to open a full inquest into Ms Rizvi’s murder, the IOPC reviewed the 2011 investigation and found there were “sufficient grounds” to re-investigate the actions of MPS officers as there were matters “not addressed in the original investigation”.

“To assist with the coronial process, we began a re-investigation in 2021 into the police interaction with Ms Rizvi, Mr Williams and Paul Asbury and others from Thursday March 13, 2003, to Thursday, March 20, 2003,” said the IOPC.

Its re-investigation specifically looked at:

  • The actions taken and decisions made by the investigating officer during the detention of Miss Rizvi and Mr Williams, the officers’ assessment of risk and the management of their welfare and potential threats of immediate harm to them upon release from custody;
  • Whether any MPS staff deliberately or inadvertently gave information to Mr Asbury or his associates which led to the fatal shooting of Miss Rizvi and critical injury to Mr Williams; and
  • If the MPS was in possession of any intelligence that would lead to a belief that the lives of Miss Rizvi and or Mr Williams were at risk prior to 19 March 2003.

“All current and former Met officers or staff involved in our re-investigation, which concluded in October 2022, were treated as witnesses throughout,” the IOPC said.

“We found no indication that any officers’ actions may have caused or contributed to her death.

“We also found no indication that any officers’ actions justified bringing disciplinary proceedings or that they had committed a criminal offence.

“Mr Williams was able to make a call and it is believed a message may have been passed to Paul Asbury who, along with his associates, were already watching the police station.

“We found that an experienced custody sergeant should have provided better supervision to a probationary police constable, who was monitoring Mr Williams while he was detained.”

IOPC director Steve Noonan said: “This was a tragic incident where a young woman was killed and our thoughts remain with Sabina Rizvi’s family.

“Following the decision of HM Coroner to hold a full inquest, we began a re-investigation of the circumstances to assist the coronial process. Our final report was shared with HM Coroner and Sabina’s family.

“We found issues around the supervision of an inexperienced officer which resulted in Mr Williams making a call while detained resulting, it is believed, in a message being passed on to Paul Asbury. However, the evidence did not indicate any potential misconduct by officers.

“We hope the conclusion of inquest proceedings has helped to provide some closure for Sabina’s family.”

During its re-investigation, the IOPC obtained accounts from every officer who was on duty at Bexleyheath police station on the night of March 19, and the early hours of March 20, 2003.

Investigators reviewed court transcripts and records and evidence from the MPS’s murder investigation, including officers’ accounts given in 2003.

Investigators also conducted a review of the MP’s analysis of telephone numbers that came into the local police station on the evening of March 19, 2003 and the early hours of March 20.

An analysis of information held on the MPS’s intelligence systems was undertaken to identify whether the force was in possession of information that the lives of Ms Rizvi and Mr Williams were at risk prior to the date of the shooting, and no such evidence was found, said the IOPC.

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