POLICE checking the background of a former prisoner accused of attacking a woman he later killed spelled his name wrong and used the wrong date of birth.
The errors meant officers failed to identify former Huddersfield Shaun Clarke as a convicted murderer who had been released from a life sentence under probation.
Clarke, 45, was jailed for life for murdering his former partner, Patricia Sykes, at their Quarmby home in 1988 after she said their relationship was over. He had strangled the 27-year-old and put a live wire in her mouth to electrocute her.
He served more than 20 years for the killing.
After police failed to arrest Clarke, he went on to stab victim Donna Wilson nine times and inflict 46 other injuries on her at her home in Burton in Staffordshire.
Yesterday, at an inquest into her death, South Staffordshire Coroner Andrew Haigh said police missed several opportunities to identify Clarke and stop the assault, including failing to arrest the 45-year-old attacker after Miss Wilson’s complaint.
The Wilson family said Staffordshire Police had “failed in their obligation to protect Donna”.
They said in a statement: “Shaun Clarke took Donna’s life, but the evidence provided to the coroner today showed the police could and should have saved her.
“The coroner has referred to a number of missed opportunities to save her. It is the family’s sincere wish that the force learn from these mistakes so this does not happen again.”
On January 13, 2007, nine days before her death, Miss Wilson reported to police that Shaun Clarke had stolen from her and assaulted her at her St Stephen’s Court home.
But the officer she spoke to did not link Clarke to his previous murder in Huddersfield because he entered the spelling Sean Clarke and the wrong date of birth in a police database.
On the advice of his sergeant, he also incorrectly assessed Clarke as being low to medium risk rather than high risk on a form intended to assess how dangerous he was.
Chief Supt Nicolas Barker, of Staffordshire Police, told yesterday’s inquest that arresting Clarke would have been the force’s top priority if he was properly identified and assessed.
An officer had gone to Clarke’s home in Burton on January 15, but he was not at home and no further attempt was made to arrest him.
On January 21, Miss Wilson, a sheltered housing warden, was found at her home with stab wounds and died in Glenfield Hospital, Leicester, at 3.20am the next day.
The inquest was told by pathologist Dr Peter Acland that she had suffered nine stab wounds and 46 other injuries.
Clarke’s body was found hanging from a tree at Branston Water Park the following morning. A bread knife identified as the murder weapon was found nearby.
During the inquest, Detective Sergeant Ian Kinnersley said that after stabbing Miss Wilson, Clarke had phoned police and hospital staff several times apologising and threatening suicide.
In the first call, made to police from Miss Wilson’s home, he said: “I’m sorry for what I have done. I loved Donna.”
He told the inquest that Miss Wilson had an abortion in December 2006, weeks before her death, and that the baby was believed to be Clarke’s.
Clarke was released on licence from Sudbury Open Prison in May 2003.
Chief Supt Barker said the sergeant involved in Miss Wilson’s case is to face a misconduct panel, while the police constable, who Staffordshire police admitted was not fully trained to fill in the assessment form, was given a written warning.
Coroner Andrew Haigh recorded verdicts of unlawful killing for Miss Wilson and suicide for Clarke.
He said: “I can’t say for certain if Clarke had been arrested that it would have made a difference.
“He was on life-licence but even if he was detained, he may still have been bailed.
“But if he had been arrested, the risk of this happening would have been significantly reduced.
“The officer entered a too narrow search in the Police National Computer and failed to spot Clarke’s prior offences.
“There were a number of missed opportunities to discover Clarke’s background and if they had been taken, Donna Wilson’s report would have been taken more seriously.”
An Independent Police Complaints Commission report into the incident, made in June, found that the force was guilty of “systematic failure”.
After the inquest, Chief Supt Barker said the force had “apologised unreservedly” to Miss Wilson’s family.