A SERIES of failings led to delays in discovering the decomposing body of a woman in a boiler cupboard and prevented anyone being brought to justice over her potential murder.

A Domestic Homicide Review published this week revealed that Lancashire Police and other agencies involved with Victoria Cherry and her partner Andrew Reade did not consider the possibility of domestic abuse.

Ms Cherry moved to accommodation for homeless adults in Blackburn in February 2012 – and two years later began a relationship with Reade, who also lived there and had a significant criminal history, including for domestic violence.

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The couple later moved to Bolton, where ultimately, Ms Cherry died. Her body was eventually found in a boiler cupboard at Reade’s flat in January 2017 – she had last been seen alive on October 6, 2015.

Reade was arrested on suspicion of murdering her, but the state of her remains meant there was insufficient evidence to prosecute him.

Instead, in June 2017, Reade was convicted of preventing the unlawful burial of a body and perverting the course of justice. He was jailed for four years and four months.

A coroner recorded an open conclusion as the cause of Ms Cherry’s death could not be ascertained.

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The Domestic Homicide Review report, which did not name Reade or Ms Cherry, stated: "The failure of agencies in contact with the couple to enquire about and share concerns in respect of the female's sudden disappearance contributed to the delay in discovering her body.

“The delay in discovering the body meant that it was not possible to determine the cause of her death. If the male did in fact murder her, the delay in finding her body enabled him to evade justice.”

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Although Ms Cherry, who is originally from the Preston area, and her family were largely estranged they did have periodic contact.

When the absence was longer than usual Ms Cherry’s mother reported her missing to Lancashire Police in October 2016.

“The early stages of the missing person’s enquiry were handled unsatisfactorily,” says the report, which says the force’s procedure stresses the importance of searching the place where a missing person was last seen. There was a repeated failure to search the flat.

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The review also concludes that the force’s initial risk assessment gave insufficient weight to Ms Cherry’s vulnerability, the risk that Reade, who has a criminal record, posed to her and the likelihood that she had been the victim of a serious crime.

The flat was eventually searched and Ms Cherry’s body discovered three months after she was reported missing.

Det Chief Insp Mike Gladwin, of Lancashire Police’s Public Protection Unit, added: “First and foremost our thoughts remain with the family in this tragic case.

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"We welcome the review and we participated fully with it as part of our commitment to learning and improving in any way we can to protect victims of domestic abuse.

"We recognise there are things that could have been done better in this case and we have introduced a comprehensive action plan to implement the recommendations and we will ensure that we continue to work together with our partners to minimise risks to victims of domestic abuse.”