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Coroner demands keys of man confiscated after he was able to go home after arrest for stabbing wife

Coroner demands police be given powers to seize house keys from domestic violence suspects – after learning during inquiry that ‘control freak’ fisherman who stabbed wife to death was able to go home after being arrested for assaulting her

  • Neil Harman stabbed his wife Sharon to death while on bail for assault
  • Andrew Cox, a senior coroner in Cornwall, is now calling for government change

A coroner has demanded that police be given the power to seize the house keys of domestic violence suspects to prevent them from killing their partners following the outcome of a gruesome case.

‘Control freak’ fisherman Neil Harman stabbed his wife to death after he was released on bail for assaulting her.

Although Harman had been warned to stay away from his wife Sharon, officers were unable to keep the key to the house they shared together, previous investigations found.

Senior coroner Andrew Cox has now written to the government warning that there will be more cases like this in households across the country unless action is taken.

Neil Harman (pictured left) stabbed to death his wife Sharon (right) while out on bail for assault

Two days before killing her, Harman assaulted his 49-year-old wife and was taken into custody – but got his key back when he was released on a bail condition to stay away from her.

The key was found in the door of Mr and Mrs Harman’s marital home in Polperro, Cornwall after he killed her and committed suicide on 6 August 2021. The fisherman stabbed his wife a total of 47 times before stabbing himself 33 times with a knife, the court records show.

Mr Cox has written to MP Chris Philp – the Minister of Police – to warn that there is a ‘clear disconnect’ in police powers on this issue. He has written a report on the prevention of future deaths, usually reserved for the most serious investigations urging an organization to take action to prevent similar deaths.

He said: ‘During the inquest, the evidence revealed matters of concern. In my opinion there is a risk of deaths in the future if no action is taken.’

Mr Cox said current police laws only allow officers to hold keys in situations where a suspect is not living with the victim.

Senior coroner Andrew Cox (pictured) is now calling for government action

Senior coroner Andrew Cox (pictured) is now calling for government action

He said: “The guidance appears to be anticipating a situation where a suspect and victim live at different addresses but may have shared keys. The situation here was that Mr. and Mrs. Harman lived together at their home address which they co-owned.

“After police questioned Mr Harman for an offense of assaulting Elaine and causing her actual bodily harm – a charge which Mr Harman denied – it was considered whether the police could keep his house key, given that there was a bail condition was imposed requiring him not to attend the meeting. address. It was felt that the police did not legally have this power under s19 PACE or otherwise.

“Mr. Harman’s key has been returned to him. It was found broken off in the lock of the house door, along with a destroyed latch, after Mr. Harman broke in.

“In my opinion, action should be taken to prevent future deaths and I believe that you (MP Philp and the government) have the power to take such action.

“There seems to be a clear gap between the guidelines of the College of Policing and the laws issued to the police under s19 PACE or otherwise. This seems particularly concerning in cases of domestic violence where the parties previously lived together.

“The police officers who gave evidence during the inquest agreed that an additional power to retain a house key – only for the duration of the imposed bail conditions – would be an additional and useful power.”