Police apologise for 'failing' domestic abuse victim killed by abusive lover and wrongly saying she died of overdose

POLICE have apologised to the family of a mum killed by her partner after saying she should have "used her legs" to escape.

Suzanne Van Hagen, 34, and her partner John Worton, 37 were found dead by her nine-year-old daughter in February, 2013.

West Midlands Police initially told the family she was murdered by Worton before he killed himself at their home in Frankley.

But the force then wrongly claimed Suzanne had died from an accidental drugs overdose.

Worton had been reported to cops eight times for domestic abuse on Suzanne, but no effective action was taken.

When her sister told officers Suzanne had suffered domestic abuse, a female police liaison officer replied: "Your sister had two legs and she should have used them."


In 2017, a police review found the Senior Investigating Officer in the case failed to make proper enquiries about marks to Suzanne's neck.

He accepted a pathologist's suggestion that the marks were the result of a sex game.

A tribunal later found Suzanne was assaulted by Worton, which led to her death.

West Midlands Police has now admitted liability and agreed to pay substantial compensation to the family over its failings to protect Suzanne.

In a statement released through the family's lawyers, Suzanne's heartbroken mum Ann Van Hagen said: "My beautiful daughter deserves to be remembered as she was – not as this person whom the police tried to portray her as."

Suzanne's dad, Les Van Hagen, blasted cops for "an absolute betrayal of the trust we place in them".

My beautiful daughter deserves to be remembered as she was – not as this person whom the police tried to portray her as

He said: "We tried to tell them our concerns, but they didn't listen.

"It is a wicked and cruel thing to let down a family in this way."

West Midlands Police Chief Constable Dave Thompson has apologised for his force's failings.

He said police "should have done more to protect Suzanne and her daughter from the abuse they were suffering".

How you can get help

Women’s Aid has this advice for victims and their families:

  • Always keep your phone nearby.
  • Get in touch with charities for help, including the Women’s Aid live chat helpline and services such as SupportLine.
  • If you are in danger, call 999.
  • Familiarise yourself with the Silent Solution, where you call 999 and press ‘55’ if you can’t safely speak.
  • Always keep some money or a bank card on you, including change in case you need a pay phone or bus fare.
  • If you suspect your partner is about to attack you, try to move towards an exit if you are inside the house and get your phone in case you need to call for help.
  • Avoid the kitchen and garage, where there are likely to be knives or other potential weapons. Avoid rooms where you might become trapped, such as the bathroom.

Women’s Aid provides a live chat service – available every day from 10am-6pm or email [email protected]

SupportLine is open Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 6pm to 8pm on 01708 765200. The charity’s email support ­service is open weekdays and weekends during the crisis – [email protected]

You can also call the freephone 24-hour ­National Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0808 2000 247.

Sarah Ricca, from the family's law firm Deighton Pierce Glynn, said: “This is a truly shocking case that starkly highlights the institutional discrimination women continue to face from the police in relation to domestic violence.

"Suzanne was failed by West Midlands Police in life and she was failed by them in death.

"Her family’s long fight for justice over the past eight years shows just how hard it is to hold the powers that be to account in this country."

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