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Inquest could examine whether vulnerable Ipswich man Joe Pooley was protected by public authorities before he was murdered in River Gipping

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An inquest could look at what authorities did or didn’t do to protect a vulnerable Ipswich man who was murdered when he was drowned in a river.

Joe Pooley, 22, was thrown in the River Gipping and held under water on August 22, 2018, and in May this year three people were jailed for life.

Becki West-Davidson, Sean Palmer, and Sebastian Smith, formerly known as Luke Greenland, were jailed for a total of 56 years between them for the killing.

Joe Pooley. Picture: Suffolk Police
Joe Pooley. Picture: Suffolk Police

Sentencing the trio at Ipswich Crown Court, Judge Martyn Levett said the killing was motivated by sexual jealousy after Smith found out Mr Pooley had slept with West-Davidson.

A week before the murder, the court was told, Smith had taken him to a forest and told him to dig his own grave.

And at the sentencing, which came after a four month trial, Judge Levett said the fact Mr Pooley, who was vulnerable and had learning difficulties, had no adult care or supervision and there was no overview of the people he was mixing with, was ‘perhaps a lesson to be learned’.

Sebastian Smith, Becki West-Davidson, and Sean Palmer. Pictures: Suffolk Police
Sebastian Smith, Becki West-Davidson, and Sean Palmer. Pictures: Suffolk Police

At Suffolk Coroners Court today, a pre-inquest review led by area coroner Jacqueline Devonish continued the investigation into the circumstances surrounding Mr Pooley’s death.

Una Morris, representing the family, said there were a number of issues that needed to be answered.

“What did the public authorities know, and what did they know about risk? What did they know about risk from identified individuals and unidentified individuals?”

And she told the court there were questions about what services knew about the need to protect him, as well as his vulnerabilities, and Ms Morris added, if they did something ‘was it reasonable and appropriate in the circumstances’.

And the pre-inquest review today was told of at least one threatening text message to Mr Pooley, which dated back to May 2016.

Suffolk Police are now set to trawl through their records to look at their previous contact with him, with the scale of the police records search set to be considered.

As well as Suffolk Police and Mr Pooley’s family, at the Ipswich-based court today representatives from the Ministry of Justice, Suffolk County Council, and Ipswich Borough Council were discussing how the next stages of the inquest process should proceed.

At the time of his murder he had been placed in bed and breakfast accommodation and was awaiting transfer to supported living accommodation.

Mr Pooley, a vulnerable adult who was suspected to be on the autistic spectrum, had attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and other learning disabilities.

A full inquest has been listed for a four week period in April and May next year. She said a further pre-inquest review is to be held on January 28.

For more information on how we can report on inquests, click here

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