Acid attacker could have been caught before fatal incident, police watchdog finds

Martin Evans
Xeneral Webster was jailed for manslaughter

A man who killed a woman in an acid attack, could have been caught by police months earlier if an officer had circulated crucial CCTV footage, it has emerged.

Xeneral Webster, 20, was jailed for 17-years in 2018 after being convicted of the manslaughter of carer, Joanne Rand.

The innocent bystander was fatally wounded after being hit with sulphuric acid, during a fight between Webster and another man in High Wycombe in June 2017.

But her family claim she would still be alive today if a police officer had circulated images of Webster obtained during another acid attack months earlier in west London.

In that incident a woman suffered significant leg injuries when she was splashed with acid during a fight at a cinema in Ealing in March 2017.

The following day the police officer obtained CCTV footage which he said he would circulate on an internal database in an effort to identify the attacker.

But the images were not shared until November 2018 by which time Webster had already carried out and been jailed for the attack on Ms Rand.

Within hours of the footage being circulated Webster was identified as the alleged attacker in the Ealing incident.

The Scotland Yard officer involved in the case, who has not been named, is now facing a disciplinary hearing after the police watchdog ruled he had a case to answer for misconduct.

Ms Rand’s family said: "Had this acid attack in March 2017 been investigated properly at the time, Webster the alleged perpetrator would have been dealt with and may not have been free to carry out the horrific attack in June 2017 on Jo and she may still be with us.

"We feel let down by the Metropolitan Police."

Sal Naseem from the Independent Office for Police Conduct said: "Our investigation began against a backdrop of an escalation in acid attacks in London.

"The consequences of such attacks are devastating, and my sympathies are with the family and friends of Joanne Rand because the circumstances surrounding her death are truly tragic.

"Having assessed all of the evidence we concluded the failure on the part of the detective constable to circulate the CCTV image was not intentional or deliberate, however it was entirely avoidable.

"The officer had an opportunity in April 2017 to circulate the CCTV but this did not happen.

"We passed our report and its findings to the Metropolitan Police Service who agreed with us that the officer had a case to answer for misconduct.

"They will now arrange for a misconduct meeting to take place during which the evidence will be assessed.”