GRANTHAM, England — Daniela Espirito Santo died after waiting on hold for the police to answer her call for help.
It was the seventh time in a year that she had reported her boyfriend to the police, including for death threats and for trying to strangle her. Two of those calls came in the hours before her death. The first was in the morning, after her boyfriend pinned her on the bed and pressed his forearm against her throat.
“Is this it?” Ms. Espirito Santo, 23, had gasped, according to a police report. “Are you going to kill me this time?”
The police took him into custody but quickly released him. He returned to Ms. Espirito Santo’s apartment and soon afterward she called the police to report that he had assaulted her again. The dispatcher told her that her situation wasn’t urgent, because the boyfriend had left. He directed her to a nonemergency hotline and hung up after 94 seconds.
during the first month of Britain’s lockdown — more than triple the number in that month the previous year, and the highest figure in a decade. But it also illustrates another flaw in British authorities’ efforts to address violence against women: the repeated failure of prosecutors to punish abusers.
Initially charged with manslaughter, the boyfriend, Julio Jesus, then 30, was eventually sentenced to only 10 months behind bars. The Crown Prosecution Service, the national public prosecutor, dropped its manslaughter charge because of complicating medical opinions about the condition of Ms. Espirito Santo’s heart, and convicted him on two counts of serious assault. He was released before England’s coronavirus lockdowns had ended.
“There was a litany of failures where once again a woman’s voice hasn’t been listened to,” said Jess Phillips, a Labour lawmaker who speaks for the opposition on domestic violence policy. “This case shows nothing is changing, even though victims keep being promised it is.”
fewer than 2 percent of rape cases and 8 percent of domestic abuse cases reported to the police in England and Wales are prosecuted, even as complaints are rising.
The nation was shocked earlier this year when a police officer confessed to kidnapping, raping and murdering Sarah Everard, a 33-year-old marketing executive who was abducted while walking home in South London. The crime underscored the vulnerability felt by many British women and their concern that the police and prosecutors are failing to protect them.
Parliament recently approved new legislation on domestic abuse. But changing policing and public attitudes has proved difficult for decades. Failings and missed opportunities by the police often remain hidden.
Ms. Espirito Santo’s case fit that pattern. Her death in Grantham, a market town in the largely rural English county of Lincolnshire, received little outside attention and was regarded as a tragedy, not a scandal. An inquest into her death is in limbo. Lincolnshire Police — a small force covering a wide area with a sparse but often deprived population — refused an interview, as did the Crown Prosecution Service.
But an investigation by The New York Times lays bare the escalating abuse Ms. Espirito Santo reported, gives a rare insight into police failings and raises questions about the decision by prosecutors to drop the manslaughter charge. The Times has obtained a confidential 106-page report compiled by the Independent Office for Police Conduct, an official watchdog, into the Lincolnshire force’s handling of the case.
The report documents Ms. Espirito Santo’s ever more desperate interactions with the police, revealing a haphazard response as her situation worsened. It noted that some male officers felt sympathetic toward Mr. Jesus before releasing him on bail, including one who said his “biggest concern” was the boyfriend’s mental health.