Page last updated at 14:32 GMT, Friday, 5 January 2007

'Blame' issue in store death case

Clare Bernal
Miss Bernal was shot in front of shoppers

A blame culture surrounds the case of a Harvey Nichols employee gunned down in the store by her former boyfriend, a coroner has said.

The inquest into the death of Clare Bernal, 22, has heard about alleged failings by the Metropolitan Police and Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).

She was shot in Knightsbridge, west London, in September 2005 by Michael Pech, who then killed himself.

The inquest was adjourned until 18 January when a verdict will be given.

One of Metropolitan Police's most senior officers appeared before the hearing on Friday to defend his force's handling of the case, insisting the alleged blunders had not led to Miss Bernal's death.

Commander Steve Allen, head of the force's Violent Crime Directorate, admitted a crucial risk assessment form had not been completed but said this had made not "one iota" of difference to the eventual outcome.

A distasteful parcel of retribution is being passed up and down the Metropolitan Police and in and out of the CPS, each person terrified it will end in their lap
Coroner Dr Paul Knapman

The hearing has also heard how when Pech was eventually arrested he was charged with a less serious offence than the one recommended by prosecutors - possibly because of an administrative error by police.

Before he left court Dr Knapman said: "With the benefit of hindsight a distasteful parcel of retribution is being passed up and down the Metropolitan Police and in and out of the CPS, each person terrified it will end in their lap.

"We shall see what I think about that later."

Finding of neglect

Luke Garrett, who is representing Miss Bernal's mother, who lives in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, asked the coroner to consider an additional finding of neglect.

However Georgina Kent, acting on behalf of the Metropolitan Police, said there was no basis in law for such a finding.

Miss Bernal was shot dead by 30-year-old Slovakian Pech, a former security guard at Harvey Nichols, on 13 September. He had taken cocaine at the time.

Former soldier Pech had begun stalking Miss Bernal, from Dulwich, south London, following the end of their brief relationship in 2005.

He was arrested and charged with harassment but while on bail managed to travel to Slovakia and smuggle back a pistol.

He shot Miss Bernal eight days before he was due to be sentenced after pleading guilty to a harassment offence.

video and audio news
The events leading up to Clare Bernal's death



RELATED INTERNET LINKS
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

BBC navigation

BBC © 2013 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific