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Last Updated: Wednesday, 6 October, 2004, 14:18 GMT 15:18 UK
Police chief sorry for 999 delay
Vicky Horgan (left) and sister Emma Walton
The sisters were shot at a family barbecue in June
A chief constable has apologised after his force was slammed over the length of time it took officers to attend a shooting in which two sisters died.

Vicky Horgan, 27, and Emma Walton, 25, were shot dead by Vicky's estranged husband, Stuart Horgan, in Highmoor Cross, Oxfordshire, in June.

Police received two 999 calls at 1637 BST but armed officers did not enter the house until an hour later.

An inquiry into the shooting said the delay "cannot be justified".

It also criticised the ambulance service, which did not arrive until after 1800.

We could, and should, have been faster to the scene to protect the wounded and the public of Highmoor Cross
Peter Neyroud
Chief Constable

The report found that the control room inspector on duty at the time did not initially send officers to the scene as it was "not safe".

When the police did arrive and called the ambulance the medics initially refused to go as police were unable to confirm that the offender had been tracked down and that the area was safe.

The ambulance agreed to attend several minutes later with an armed escort.

Peter Neyroud, head of Thames Valley Police, admitted officers "should have been faster" in their response to 999 calls.

Mr Neyroud apologised for the "over-cautious" response to pleas for help from Vicky's neighbours, who stepped in to administer first aid and have since been fiercely critical of the police response.

"We could, and should, have been faster to the scene to protect the wounded and the public of Highmoor Cross," he said.

"I regret very much the distress which the additional delay caused to victims and witnesses.

"We need to rebalance the caution with which we deploy lethal force with our duty to protect the public."

According to the review, a Home Office pathologist said that Vicky would not have survived the injury and described it as "highly unlikely" that Emma would have, had she received medical attention.

The level of delay in both the police and ambulance service attending the scene cannot be justified
Report statement

The review, conducted by Thames Valley Police and overseen by the Independent Police Complaints Commission, criticised the time it took to react.

It said: "This report concludes that the level of delay in both the police and ambulance service attending the scene cannot be justified.

"The police have a basic duty to preserve and protect life."

It adds that the situation was not attributable to the errors of any individual, describing the staff involved as "very dedicated and committed".

It said: "The weaknesses identified in this review in relation to how the incident at Highmoor Cross was dealt with are fundamental issues for Thames Valley Police and possibly the police service nationally."

Husband's suicide

Mrs Horgan died at the family party at her house, while her sister Emma of Reading, Berkshire, died shortly afterwards in hospital.

Their mother was seriously injured in the shooting.

Stuart Horgan, from Plaistow in east London, was charged with murder, but killed himself in his cell HMP Woodhill Prison in Buckinghamshire in June.

He used a razor blade to cut his throat, four days after he had been taken off suicide watch.

The events that led to the girls' murders

Triple shooting suspect in court
18 Jun 04  |  Oxfordshire
Inquest into double BBQ killing
10 Jun 04  |  Oxfordshire
Treatment delay raised at meeting
09 Jun 04  |  Oxfordshire

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