Murdered West Lothian woman ‘vulnerable’ after cops seized her phone

Katrina O'Hara was murdered two years ago by her ex-partner
Katrina O'Hara was murdered two years ago by her ex-partner

A hairdresser from West Lothian who was murdered by her former lover was left “afraid and vulnerable” after police seized her phone, a report has found.

Katrina O’Hara had her mobile phone taken from her so cops could investigate a report of domestic violence - just eight days before she was stabbed to death by Stuart Thomas, 49, two years ago.

The 44-year-old, from Bathgate, was slain after Thomas attacked outside the Dorset hairdressers where she worked on January 7, 2016.

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) launched an investigation examining how Dorset Police handled incidents leading up to the mum-of-three’s death.

Katrina was left “afraid and vulnerable” by not being able to contact police immediately if she needed to, the police watchdog said.

Following a report into contact between Dorset Police and Katrina, the IOPC described this as a “serious issue”.

In a statement Katrina’s family spoke of their heartache and claimed her death “could have been prevented.”

“Our faith in policing has been shaken to the core, and of course we’re disappointed that Dorset Police haven’t taken stronger action against the officers involved,” they said.

Graham Beesley, operations manager of the IOPC, said: “Our investigation identified serious concerns with the service provided to Ms O’Hara.

“On a number of occasions when she contacted Dorset Police, officers failed to take appropriate action in a timely manner.

“We also found instances where police did not properly consider the seriousness of non-violent risk factors, including the escalating nature of the incidents between Ms O’Hara and Stuart Thomas.”

Father-of-four Thomas had waited for Katrina to leave her work at Jock’s Barbers, and chased her back into the salon where he stabbed her in the chest.

He was convicted of murder following a trial at Winchester Crown Court, where he was jailed for life with a minimum term of 26 years.

Dorset Police were in contact with Ms O’Hara and Thomas on numerous occasions before her murder, with an initial report of a physical altercation between them on November 10 in 2015.

Thomas was arrested on December 30 following an incident four days earlier in which he threatened to kill himself and Ms O’Hara.

He was interviewed and released on bail, on the condition that he did not contact Ms O’Hara. Ms O’Hara contacted police reporting potential bail breaches on January 1 and 4.

Dorset Police Assistant Chief Constable Mark Callaghan said the force had “taken careful account” of the recommendations. The force has also introduced new policies – including providing a replacement mobile phone to those deemed at risk of harm.