GPs must be ‘more alert’ to signs of controlling behaviour after Spalding man killed wife and daughter, review finds

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GPs must be “more alert” to signs of controlling and coercive behaviour after a Spalding man killed his wife and daughter before turning the gun on himself, a review has concluded.

Lance Hart shot his wife of 26 years, Claire, in July 2016, days after she decided to leave him, before turning the shotgun on his 19-year-old daughter Charlotte.

Lance Hart

Lance Hart

A Domestic Homicide Review (DHR) conducted by Lincolnshire County Council has recommended frontline practitioners should ask more overtly about domestic abuse.

Mrs Hart, 50, and Charlotte had been subjected to years of mental abuse before they were shot by Hart near the Castle Sports Complex in Spalding.

Despite it being described as a “tragedy nobody could foresee”, the council said the behaviour of 57-year-old Hart was “endemic” and “was not known by professionals”.

To “gain a wider public understanding” of domestic abuse, the DHR also recommended the local safeguarding children’s board should make requests to schools about running “awareness sessions”.

Although recommendations were made by the DHR, the review did find there were no specific failings leading up to the deaths.

Two days after the shootings, Mrs Hart’s sons Luke and Ryan were in Spalding police station when they saw a poster about domestic abuse which “described our father in perfect detail”.

Ryan has previously told the Press Association: “We thought about the controlling and coercive behaviour and how it was used to isolate us from each other, our extended family and to control us financially... that’s when we realised we were victims of abuse.

“Throughout our entire lives, the abuse became normalised. It was only when we saw that poster that we realised he was the perfect example of an abuser... that our entire lives had been one of domestic abuse.”

Referring to the lessons learned from the shootings, the DHR said: “Although controlling and coercive behaviour is now embedded within domestic abuse definitions, it appears to be the least understood aspect of the overall domestic abuse and safeguarding legislation and where all professionals need to think wider and seek to explore individuals with greater curiosity.

“Frontline practitioners in particular need to be more alert to the signs and symptoms of these behaviours and be able to highlight possible triggers and subtle inferences and make appropriate referrals.”

The recommendations section of the DHR says: “This was a tragedy that it appears nobody could foresee yet Claire, Luke, Ryan and Charlotte had been suffering intense domestic abuse for many years and didn’t know this was what they were suffering as there was no physical abuse.

“The behaviour by the perpetrator was endemic and was not known by professionals, nor sadly, was it understood by members of the family.”