'Unacceptable' failings in Met's handling of missing sisters

Sisters Bibaa Henry and Nicole Smallman were very close and popular

An IOPC investigation found failings into the Met's handling of Nicole Smallman and Bibaa Henry's case, whose bodies were found in Fryent Country Park - Credit: Met Police

The Metropolitan Police has apologised to the family of two missing sisters found dead following an independent investigation.

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) identified failings in the handling of Nicole Smallman and Bibaa Henry's disappearance last June, calling the force's level of service "unacceptable".

As a result, a Met inspector and staff member must undertake unsatisfactory performance procedures and a call handler will receive management action after they referred to a missing person as a "suspect" and appeared dismissive during a call with a friend of one of the sisters. 

Regional director for London Sal Naseem said: “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 missing."

The director added: “It is vital that the force addresses these shortcomings and effects long-lasting change and improvement to help restore public confidence in the MPS.”

Between the evening of Saturday, June 6 and Sunday, June 7 2020, family members and friends reported the sisters missing and informed the Met this was completely out of character for them.

They had not been seen since June 5, when they attended Fryent Park, Wembley, to celebrate Ms Henry’s birthday.

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Three calls were made to the police during that time, with the Met promising to deploy resources to "conduct enquiries into their whereabouts".

However, the duty inspector decided to close the police logs and resources were not deployed until mid-morning on June 7.

The IOPC found that the duty inspector’s decision was influenced by information from a family member regarding Ms Henry’s believed whereabouts, which was inaccurately recorded on a police log by a civilian staff member working in the force control room.

Following on from the decision to close the police logs, the staff member did not update family members that police were no longer attending Ms Smallman’s home to carry out a room search.

A search by the sisters’ families and friends of the last known location where the sisters were together led to the discovery of their bodies at 1.18pm on June 7 in Fryent Country Park.

The IOPC investigation further found that a missing person report was not created for Ms Henry until June 7, meaning action was not taken to find her, in breach of the Met's missing person policy.

There was "confusion around who had responsibility and oversight" of the missing person investigation, leading to "inadequate record keeping".

The investigation explored whether the police's response was affected by the sisters' ethnicity or where they lived, but concluded they were not.

Met commissioner Cressida Dick said that "if we had responded better we may have saved their friends and family immeasurable pain".