The mother of murdered sisters Nicole Smallman and Bibaa Henry, Mina Smallman, has said the time for apologies is “long gone” after the Metropolitan Police announced they would formally apologise to the family for their response to the two women’s disappearance and murder last June.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with Channel 4 News, Smallman acknowledged that, while the police’s failures may not have changed the final outcome of the case, their handling of the investigation took an emotional toll on herself and her family.
“They’ve admitted that there were mistakes,” she said. “It may never have changed the ultimate outcome, however, we as a family would have been spared the additional anguish and torment.”
She continued: “My son – I call him my son, he calls me, ‘Mum’ – he was the one who found his soulmate and his sister. If the Met had done their job – cared enough – we would have been spared all the additional phone calls [and] sleepless nights worrying, ‘Where are they?’.
“And now they want to say sorry? The time for apologies is long gone. Long gone.”
Smallman also confirmed she believes there were racist elements to the police’s failings – despite the official Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) report into the investigation saying there was no suggestion “racial bias” played any part.
“No one was taking it seriously,” Smallman explained. “There was no search put in place by police. Our phone calls were being disregarded. There was no action at all… Bibaa wasn’t even on as a missing person on the Sunday after we’d made calls on the Saturday. And you know, it’s shameful, it’s shocking.
“Right from the very beginning, they knew they were looking for two girls, two women of colour. I’m trying to understand why they didn’t follow procedure. What could the explanation be?”
Investigations surrounding Smallman and Henry’s murders have been ongoing since last June, after the pair were stabbed to death in Wembley’s Fryent Country Park while celebrating Henry’s 46th birthday. Their killer, 19-year-old Danyal Hussein – who said he stabbed the sisters as part of a deal he made with a so-called “demon” – was found guilty of their murders on 6 July, and is due to appear in court for sentencing this Thursday (28 October).
The IOPC report into the handling of the case found that the service provided to Smallman’s family was “below the standard that it should have been,” and reported that the performance of one officer and two members of police staff was found to be “inadequate”.
The failings outlined in the report – which was published earlier today – include a failure by an inspector to “properly progress” missing persons enquiries for Smallman or Henry, meaning resources were not deployed until mid-morning on 7 June.
The report states that the Met was wrong not to progress the case sooner – and that doing so could have saved the family from discovering the sisters’ bodies after they took it upon themselves to launch a search party.
In a statement, the IOPC regional director for London Sal Naseem confirmed this to be the case: “Once again my thoughts and sympathies are with the family and friends of Nicole Smallman and Bibaa Henry.
“Their deaths caused unimaginable heartache, loss and grief, feelings which were heightened by the inadequate service the family and friends received from the Metropolitan Police when reporting the sisters messing.”
The statement continued: “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.”
It waits to be seen whether Smallman will take any further action against the police for their handling of her daughters’ case; in a previous interview with BBC Radio 4, Smallman – who was the first Black woman to become an archdeacon in the Church of England – said she would consider taking legal action if she was dissatisfied with the outcome of the IOPC investigation.
“I don’t have an agenda to topple everything,” she said at the time. “What I want to do is make things better so that the things that happen to us never happen to anyone else.
She continued: “I imagine [Bibaa and Nicole] looking down and saying, ‘Go for it mum. Go for it. You’ve got this, go for it.’”
Images: Shutterstock;Marita Upeniece