Inquest into death of Queen’s Hospital midwife hears of long history of physical abuse

An inquest has revealed that the abusive husband who killed a Queen’s Hospital midwife was working as a mental health nurse at the time.

Simbiso Aretha Moula, a “popular, valued member” of the Romford hospital’s staff, was found dead in her Rainham home on the morning of January 4, 2019.

An inquest at Walthamstow Coroner’s Court this week heard her husband Garikayi Moula, also found dead that morning after taking his own life, had a long history of abusing her.

Police were called to the house once before her death, in November 2017, but east London coroner Nadia Persaud did not find “there was any opportunity to have prevented” what happened.

A statement from the couple’s eldest child, Nyasha Moula, recounted how the pair met in Zimbabwe when Garikayi was 30 and Simbiso was around 18.

Nyasha said: “From what my mother told me… their relationship was briefly good but then he became quite abusive and used to beat her often, even more when she became pregnant with me.

“After I was born, she came to the UK on her own to study nursing and midwifery… years later she told me it was her plan for me to come over and that we would start afresh, just the two of us.

“I’m not sure what happened but he went over to be with her… that’s when the beating started again. One night, he tried to hit her and she told him ‘we are in England now, it is a crime to hit your wife. If you ever hit me again, I will call the police and they will arrest you and deport you.’

“According to her, he never hit her again but he was still controlling. I do remember some arguments that got quite heated and things broke all over the floor.

“A year after I came to the UK my mother was pregnant with my younger brother and she told me years later that she felt she could not leave him because of it.”

Nyasha said Garikayi was jealous her mother had “so many people who cared for her”, forbade her from going out and would “berate her” about cleaning, her parenting and how much she used her phone.

When he became scared Simbiso was planning to leave him for another man, he sent intimate photos of her to him, asking the other man if he wanted a woman “who looks like this”, which Nyasha said was “a big betrayal”.

The couple tended to have big arguments “at least twice a year”, which would last “a couple hours”, after which they wouldn’t speak for several days.

During one of the biggest arguments, in November 2017, Simbiso called the police after becoming scared Garikayi was going to hit her with a hammer he kept under the bed.

Nyasha said: “The police arrived and asked my brothers and I if we saw anything and, after they spoke to our parents, they left.

“She told me she had told them it was a mistake and she was over-reacting, she said she was trying not to get him into trouble, especially with his job.”

During the summer of 2018, Simbiso ended her relationship with Garikayi, briefly kicking him out before allowing him to return “for financial reasons”, although he slept on the floor.

Simbiso insisted their relationship was over despite his repeated attempts to propose again and, in September, told her daughter she had met someone else.

Nyasha told the court: “I was happy for her but my brother and I were very worried because Garikayi was a jealous person who believed only he could have my mother.

“She said it would be fine and that they were over but he still thought they had a chance and was becoming very depressed.”

The court heard evidence from Detective Sergeant Paul Slaymaker about the incident on November 11 2017, when officers attending decided there was a “low risk” to Simbiso.

He said officers assessing future risk after domestic incidents ask 27 questions and automatically refer the case to a specialist team if 14 or more are answered yes.

In this case, Simbiso answered no to all 27 questions and did not mention the hammer. Police found no record of previous incidents with the couple and took no action.

Brian Boxall, independent chair of Havering’s adult safeguarding board, said that, while he had “no criticism” of the officers, he felt there were lessons that could be learned.

He told the court: “Had officers become aware of the hammer, I’m sure they would have come to a different conclusion.

“It’s absolutely no criticism of the officers that were there but the question is: were they equipped (with the skills for) interviewing children?”

He also suggested officers attending domestic incidents should be instructed to ask what profession the people involved are.

He added: “Had they known, there may – and I only say may – have been a duty to disclose (to their employers) that a midwife and a mental health worker had been involved in a domestic incident.

“That may have triggered questions by their employers… which might have opened the door for interventions.

“Of course, there’s no guarantee people are ever going to tell you what their occupation is but… if (health and care staff) are involved in domestic abuse then it impacts on the way they work when they are looking after people.”

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Victoria Munro

Local Democracy Reporter