Wiltshire Police say handling of domestic abuse has been improved and gun licensing is being looked

This Is Wiltshire: DCI Ian Saunders gave a statement on behalf of Wiltshire Police DCI Ian Saunders gave a statement on behalf of Wiltshire Police

Wiltshire Police have issued a statement after Wiltshire coroner David Ridley concluded that William Dowling, 59, of the Moonrakers estate, Devizes, took his own life while suffering from depression and a general anxiety disorder and that that Victoria Rose, 58, also of Devizes, was unlawfully killed.

DCI Ian Saunders said: "This is a tragic case and our thoughts are with the families as they come to terms with the Coroner’s verdict today.

"Victoria Rose was an innocent victim whose life was violently cut short.

"It will never be fully explained what Mr Dowling’s state of mind was at the time of the shooting nor the reasons why he took such extreme action on the morning of March 2, 2013.

"The outcome has had a devastating affect on both families.

"At approximately 8am on the morning of the shootings, Mr Dowling telephoned Victoria describing a range of medical conditions that he stated he was suffering from and for which he asked for her help.

"Evidence was heard from a number of witnesses who saw Victoria arrive at Mr Dowling’s house at approximately 8.40am and some who also heard a number of loud bangs very soon after her arrival.

"Police officers went to the house following calls from concerned neighbours where they found the bodies of Victoria and Mr Dowling, both of whom had suffered gunshot wounds.

"A number of specialist forensic experts were used during the investigation. Their findings indicated that Victoria had been shot twice and that Mr Dowling shot himself with the same weapon. The Coroner was satisfied with the findings made by the forensic experts.

"The post-mortem examination of Mr Dowling showed no evidence of the conditions that he had earlier described to Victoria.

"The Coroner passed comment that this evidence demonstrated that Victoria was lured under false pretences to the house where, upon her arrival, Bill Dowling shot her and then himself.

"The court also heard that during the evening before the shootings, Bill Dowling had composed, but not sent, a number of text messages which suggested that he may end his life.

"The Coroner stated that the nature of these text messages provided evidence that Bill Dowling was considering taking his own life during the evening before the shooting.

"The Coroner stated that whilst Mr Dowling was suffering from depression anxiety and insomnia, these conditions were not of such significance to render him unable to make informed decisions about his actions.

"This has been a traumatic time for both families and I would like to recognise the dignified manner in which they have conducted themselves through both the investigation and the inquest proceedings.

"The Coroner mentioned a domestic abuse allegation against Mr Dowling from a previous partner in 1998.

"We acknowledge that this was not properly dealt [with] and fell well below the standards we would have expected from all our officers when dealing with domestic abuse at that time.

"Since that time our policy and procedures for dealing with domestic abuse incidents have been significantly improved and updated.

"The Force policy and procedure in this important area continues to be regularly reviewed in line with national best practice.

"All officers receive comprehensive training regarding domestic abuse and are now required to carry out and record detailed risk assessments of the victim’s and any other vulnerable persons safety and take positive action to prevent harm.

"Wiltshire Police has changed a great deal from when this incident happened, although it is with regret that we acknowledge that it was inappropriately dealt with.

"All reports of domestic abuse are taken very seriously and all officers and staff are expected to behave honestly and with integrity.

"We are confident that processes are in place to enable staff to challenge any inappropriate behaviour and/or report any wrong doing or dishonesty.

"We have a clear set of values and behaviours that we expect all staff to adhere to. We also continue to make it clear to all, that any wrong doing will be dealt with robustly and with consequences.

"The Coroner commented on improvements in the sharing of information between GP's and the Firearms Licensing Department.

"Since July 2011 in line with national guidance, when considering firearm and shot gun certificate applications the police have consulted with GPs.

"However following the deaths of Victoria Rose and Bill Dowling, it has been recognised that this practice does not cater for subsequent medical conditions which may make it inappropriate for the individual to continue to have access to firearms.

"Therefore, from September 2013 a pilot policy has been running between the police and two practices in Wiltshire that seeks to address this issue.

"This outlines clearly to the GP the process to follow should they have any concerns regarding a patient with access to guns.

"This will enable appropriate action to be taken, which could result in the removal of the guns and certificates.

"The outcome of the pilot will be sent to the Home Office and to National Firearms and Explosives Working Group and a decision will then be taken regarding any wider implementation of the scheme.

"Wiltshire Police are currently implementing an improvement to Force policy, where certificate holders or applicants with a history of domestic abuse will also be assessed for suitability to hold a shot gun or firearm certificate by our Public Protection Department.

"We believe that these changes in the licensing processes can only help to improve safety and reduce risk around those holding firearms and shotgun certificates."

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