A police officer who attended a call about a bag of weapons found a month before a young woman was stabbed to death did not consider they may be related to crime and instead thought they may have been theatre props or woodwork tools, an inquest has heard.
Pc Jill Lee-Liggett, from Derbyshire Police, got emotional as she spoke about the effect the killing of 23-year-old Gracie Spinks in June 2021 had had on her at the inquest into her death at Chesterfield Coroner’s Court on Wednesday.
Ms Spinks is believed to have been killed by her work colleague Michael Sellers, 35, while she was tending to her horse at Blue Lodge Farm in Duckmanton, Derbyshire, on June 18 2021 – hours before he took his own life.
A brown rucksack which contained knives, an axe, Viagra tablets, a handwritten note saying “do not lie” and a receipt from Marks and Spencer that was later linked to the Sellers family was discovered by member of the public Anna White on a farm track near the stables on May 6 2021.
After Ms White took the bag home and called the police about the discovery, Pc Lee-Liggett attended her address with her colleague Pc Ashley Downing at about 7pm that day.
Pc Lee-Liggett, who has been with the force for six years, told the inquest into Ms Spinks’ death she thought the contents of the bag was “bizarre” but was not “seriously concerned” they could be linked to a crime.
She said she only looked at certain items and did not empty the entire contents of the bag at Ms White’s house, did not make any notes or save bodyworn camera footage from the visit, and did not consider visiting the farm track where the bag was found, which was five minutes away.
When asked by coroner Matthew Kewley if she considered the risk the bag and its contents could have posed to the community, Pc Lee-Liggett said: “I did consider if they could be used as weapons or had been used as weapons, but the offences had not been made out, so I didn’t have crimes to record.
“When I unpacked the bag back at the station, my mind went to woodwork, theatrics, props, not murderous intent.”
Asked why she did not consider visiting the scene where the bag was found, which overlooked the stables where Ms Spinks was later killed, Pc Lee-Liggett said she wanted to speak to her sergeant about what she should do because she had not encountered a situation like this before.
She said: “[At the station] I made a point to look for something to identify the owner, there was no driving license or identification, but there was the M&S receipt.
“I could go to the Marks and Spencer’s branch and ask to see CCTV. I raised it with the sergeant and he said ‘Jill, why would you?’
“I said ‘what do you think I should do with [the bag]?’ He advised me to book the property in for destruction.”
Pc Lee-Liggett confirmed that no list of the contents of the bag was made at the station.
Mr Kewley asked the officer why she did not consider if the bag was related to a crime.
She said: “When I was doing an assessment of the knives and hammers and everything else in bag, I was looking at the condition of knives, I looked at any dirt or damage or blood, there was none.
“My risk assessment was downgraded, I didn’t have a blazing concern with the bag.”
The officer got emotional when Mr Kewley asked her if she would deal with the bag in the same way now without the benefit of hindsight.
Wiping tears, she said: “The way I investigate crimes is so different now because of this. Because of this I am completely risk-averse.
“I considered applying an investigative mindset to the bag and I was asked why I would do that. I was guided by my sergeant, and I did as I was told.”
The inquest continues.