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Last Updated: Monday, 13 June, 2005, 17:45 GMT 18:45 UK
'Prime suspect' was not arrested
Hayley Richards, right, with her niece Charlotte Green
Hayley Richards, right, with her niece Charlotte Green
Police investigating an assault on a Wiltshire woman five days before her murder have admitted they missed a chance to arrest the prime suspect.

Hayley Richards, 23, from Trowbridge, who was three months pregnant, reported she had been attacked by Portuguese boyfriend Hugo Quintas on 5 June.

Less than a week later, Ms Richards was found with her throat cut and and Mr Quintas had fled to Portugal.

Police said they were still looking for the murder weapon.

Portuguese interpreter

At a press conference, officers refused to comment on suggestions that the earlier assault had been an attempt to strangle Ms Richards.

The conference heard that, in the intervening days, potential opportunities for officers to arrest Mr Quintas had not been taken.

There had been allegations this was because of the need to obtain a Portuguese interpreter.
There is nothing that I can say, there is nothing that I can do that will bring Hayley back.
Peter Vaughan, ACC Wiltshire Constabulary

At the news conference on Monday, the Assistant Chief Constable of Wiltshire, Peter Vaughan, said interpreters were readily available to assist the police and there should not necessarily have been a delay the arrest of a suspect.

Mr Vaughan said: "Since Hayley's death, it has been discovered that during the course of the investigation there were potential opportunities for other officers, not directly involved in this investigation, to arrest Hugo Quintas, which were not taken."

He added that Quintas had been spoken to by police in the days between the assault and the murder but those occasions had not been connected to anything "significant".

"There were occasions where we spoke to him and the officers involved were unaware that he was wanted for an assault. Officers would only have realised later that Quintas was wanted."

Concerns for Ms Richards' safety began to grow on Saturday when she failed to turn up for work and police were sent to her home in Carders Corner, Trowbridge, where they found her body on Saturday afternoon.

No suspensions

Quintas was never apprehended by police over the alleged assault and police believe that on the day her body was found he caught a plane from Bristol airport to return to Portugal.

Three officers from Wiltshire are being sent to Portugal as part of the investigation, which is now being conducted in cooperation with the Portuguese authorities and Interpol.

Detailing the earlier assault, Mr Vaughan told reporters that because of the police's previous involvement with Ms Richards, the matter has been referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).

Mr Vaughan also confirmed that no officers had been suspended from duty.

Asked whether he thought that had Mr Quintas been arrested, Ms Richards would be alive today, Mr Vaughan added: "There is nothing that I can say, there is nothing that I can do that will bring Hayley back."

See police investigating the murder

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