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Parents of woman killed by stalker aim ‘to make a change’ across UK

Alison Ward and Richard Spinks, parents of Gracie Spinks, say they are on a “mission” to help other victims of stalking. (Callum Parke/PA)
Alison Ward and Richard Spinks, parents of Gracie Spinks, say they are on a “mission” to help other victims of stalking. (Callum Parke/PA)

The parents of Gracie Spinks say they have “got to make a change” nationally after their daughter was stabbed to death by a man she had reported to the police for stalking her.

An inquest jury concluded that Ms Spinks, 23, was unlawfully killed by Michael Sellers, 35, in Duckmanton, Derbyshire, on June 18 2021, months after she had reported him to Derbyshire Police for stalking and harassing her.

The inquest heard the force had admitted multiple failings over their investigation into her complaint, with Sellers only graded as posing a low risk and given words of advice over his offending, and no action being taken over a bag of weapons, later linked to Sellers, being found near where Ms Spinks was killed a month later.

Gracie Spinks inquest
Gracie Spinks was unlawfully killed by the man she had reported for stalking, an inquest jury unanimously concluded (Family handout/PA)

In his report to Derbyshire Constabulary and Home Secretary James Cleverley, Coroner Matthew Kewley said there was a lack of consistency in police forces’ abilities to investigate stalking reports nationwide and warned that victims faced a “postcode lottery” if they reported their concerns.

On Wednesday morning, Ms Spinks’ parents Alison Ward and Richard Spinks told BBC Breakfast that many young girls, women and men are “afraid” to report their concerns to the police in case they are not treated seriously.

The grieving parents are pressing ahead with plans for Gracie’s law to help other victims after the loss of the daughter, and say they are on a “mission”.

Mr Spinks said: “Anything that makes them stand up and make changes across the board, across the country, we are open to do.

Gracie Spinks inquest
Alison Ward and Richard Spinks join friends and family outside Chesterfield Coroner’s Court at the conclusion of the inquest into their daughter’s death (Callum Parke/PA)

“It feels like Gracie is pushing us along, saying ‘dad do this’ because that’s the way she was.

“To sit there and listen to those police failings and what they didn’t do regarding the investigation was heart-breaking.

“We want to see all police forces reacting the same, not a postcode lottery. If somebody makes a stalking report in London, it should be the same in Leeds, Aberdeen, Plymouth, wherever.

“I don’t know why they can’t all do the same and have the same procedures in place to deal with stalking so that the police officers are trained and know what to do.”

Mrs Ward said: “The coroner, Matthew Kewley, did a comprehensive report detailing all the failings that has gone to Derbyshire Constabulary but also the Home Office, and we couldn’t ask for anything better to be fair, because it’s gone right to the top.

Gracie Spinks inquest
Gracie Spinks was stabbed to death by her former colleague, Michael Sellers, who then took his own life after becoming ‘obsessed’ with her (Family handout/PA)

“Hopefully if we have that backing, we can make a change. We know Humberside Police are already using Gracie’s case in their training.

“Things are happening, it’s one force at a time, baby steps, but hopefully it will bring a national change.”

Mr Spinks and Mrs Ward said the support they have received since their daughter’s death helps them stay focused on their plans to help other stalking victims.

Mrs Ward said: “We have got to make a change – if we can just stop one more death then we have achieved something.

Gracie Spinks inquest
CCTV issued by Derbyshire Constabulary shows Michael Sellers in a Wilko store on June 16, days before Gracie Spinks was killed (Derbyshire Constabulary/PA)

“Stalking is overlooked as a crime and people live in fear, they have to change their lifestyles and it’s horrendous.

“Since we lost Gracie it has really been highlighted – we didn’t realise how much of a bigger problem it was for both men and women.

“It makes us get up in the morning. We have had loads and loads of support, in Chesterfield and nationally from people we don’t even know and that just gives us the drive to keep pushing.”

Paying tribute to his daughter, Mr Spinks said: “She was a lovely, beautiful young lady at the start of her life and it was ripped away.

“It is so sad but we have to keep our strength up for the cause.

“She was a bright light who packed so much into her 23 years, we are so proud of her and proud to do this.

“We want to make a difference, Gracie’s law is about making changes.”