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Shana Grice: A murder in slow motion

Domestic abuse is one of the biggest social issues affecting women and children in the UK today. Crime+Investigation is #HereForHer with our charity partner Refuge to help End Abuse Against Women.

Starting a job is a period filled with excitement and expectation. For 18-year- old Shana Grice, her new job would introduce her to a man who terrorised her for months and would ultimately kill her in a most savage manner.

A lively and vivacious girl, Shana grew up in Portslade, a district close to Brighton in Sussex, the only child of Sharon and Richard. In the summer of 2015, she began work as a receptionist for Brighton Fire Alarms. This was Shana’s big break, a staff position with a respectable firm, allowing her to save money for the wedding she planned with her boyfriend, Ashley Cooke, a carpenter. The couple had been together since secondary school. 

However, when 26-year-old mechanic Michael Lane introduced himself to Shana at work, there was an immediate attraction and the pair soon began a secret on/off romance which was to last until her death in 2016. In the months leading up to her murder, Shana would make a series of phone complaints about Lane to Sussex Police.

For eight months, Lane had spied on her, put a tracker on her car, assaulted her and broken into her home while she slept. Yet, when she went to the police for protection she was left to try and defend herself. 

The accounts of Shana’s calls that follow come from police records, stalking experts’ reviews, police misconduct investigations records and interviews with those close to Shana. 

From the first contact with the police, Shana told them she was scared of Lane and his volatile behaviour. 'I don’t really know how to start this conversation, but I think I am being stalked.' She told police about repeated incidents of damage to her car, of Lane hiding by her house and of the unwanted attention he paid her. 

Despite detailing months of persistent, unwanted behaviour by Lane targeting Shana, the police closed the case following a short investigation and Lane was advised to leave Shana alone.

Assistant Chief Constable Gary Shewan, a senior police stalking expert explained, 'On average we know a victim experiences 70-100 incidents before contacting the police'.  Based on this Shana could have been trying to deal with Lane’s troubling behaviour in isolation long before asking for police protection.

It would be a month later when police would again be contacted about Lane's behaviour. This time it would be Ashley Cooke's mother who contacted the police about Lane attacking Shana outside her house

This time an officer arrived shortly after the complainant was made. At the time, Shana was being comforted by her boyfriend’s family. Against good practice guidelines, PC Godfrey would interview Shana in front of Ashley and his family. Shana didn’t reveal her on/off relationship with Lane. During questioning, Lane informed the officer that he and Shana were having a sexual relationship. He admitted assaulting Shana but showed the officer some of the communications between the two that proved their relationship. PC Godfrey recommended that no action was taken. Lane was cautioned for the assault. Shana was given a £90 fine for wasting police time. 

Facing charges of gross misconduct for the way he handled the complaint, PC Godfrey told a police disciplinary tribunal in 2019 that 'She would be signing her texts (to Lane) with five kisses. This is not harassment. It was a smokescreen to disguise her affair. There was nothing there to make me think she was in any type of danger whatsoever.'   

Shana’ housemate would later speak about the impact being fined by police had on the teenager. Emma King told jurors at Lane’s murder trial: 'A few weeks before she died she said to me that no one believed her, but it did happen and because of the history of everything it looked like she was lying.'

It would be July before a terrifying event prompted Shana to call the police again. 

Shana called 999 at 6.48 am. She told officers that an hour earlier she became aware of someone in her bedroom, watching her sleep. Terrified, she lay still under the covers until she was sure they had gone. Looking out of her bedroom window, she saw Lane walking away from her home. The incident had a horrible foreshadowing of the manner in which Lane would kill Shana just weeks later. 

Police arrived at Shana’s property to investigate her complaints. The officer in charge who dealt with Shana would subsequently tell the IOPC investigators about his decision to arrest Lane for theft rather than more serious charges of stalking. 'I had been considering a stalking or harassment offence but when he arrived at the address I definitely had the evidence to prove a theft'. Another opportunity to stop Lane’s stalking behaviour against Shana had been missed. 

Lane had been cautioned for the events of July 9th. Seeing that Lane could apparently get away with coming into her bedroom uninvited, led Shana to rely more on friends and family to keep her safe, asking them to contact her if she hadn’t been in touch for a few hours. 

Over the following days, Shana would contact Sussex Police on two more occasions about suspicious phone calls she received from a withheld number. On one occasion, she answered the call and heard heavy breathing. Sometime later, Lane’s home number would be linked to one of the calls. 

She’ll pay for what she's done

In August, it seemed that Shana told Lane their relationship was over and she was with Ashley. Lane told a friend he was depressed at being dumped, adding: 'She’ll pay for what she's done'. It was to prove a tragic escalation of the risk Lane represented to his ex- partner. 

On 25th August, Lane went to Shana’s home. He slit her throat and set fire to the bedroom. 

In March 2017, he was given a 25-year prison sentence. After the trial, 12 women came forward to say that dating back to 2005 Lane had harassed them.

The guilty verdict delivered, the Judge was critical of how officers dealt with Shana’s complaints.

Mr Justice Green said of the police: 'You jumped to conclusions: she was treated as the wrongdoer and having committed a criminal offence, and Michael Lane was treated as the victim. He went on: 'There was seemingly no appreciation on the part of those investigating that a young woman in a sexual relationship with a man could at one and the same time be vulnerable and at risk of serious harm'. 

Following the murder trial, the police watchdog led a two-year investigation into the way officers from Sussex Police had dealt with the case. 13 police staff were investigated for misconduct, 1 for gross misconduct. Former PC Trevor Godfrey was found by a disciplinary panel in July 2019 to have committed misconduct by not investigating Shana Grice's complaints of harassment.  

Shana’s parents said: 'She paid for the police’s lack of training, care and poor attitude with her life'. 

If you are anyone you know are experiencing domestic abuse, you can get support from Refuge, the country’s largest provider of specialist support services for women and children

By Charlotte Rowles