A senior coroner has expressed deep concern at the way police and mental health services dealt with the case of a vulnerable woman who fell from a railway bridge four months after reporting she had been raped.
Tamsin Dolamore, a 24-year-old carer, was found on the tracks near Cornwall railway station and died in hospital the next day after suffering head injuries and cardiac arrest.
During an inquest in Truro, it emerged that there was a delay in appointing a sexual offense liaison officer to him, and a lack of detectives to investigate sexual assaults.
Although her GP said her world had been “turned upside down” by the rape, she was not seen by mental health services and was told she would have to wait five or six months for help from charities that help those survived due to the pressure on their resources.
Andrew Cox, the senior coroner for Cornwall, said: “It was shocking the extent to which she was left to deal with things on her own. Rape has to be one of the most traumatic crimes. The survivors this deserves immediate support and help. When she needed it most, Tamsin didn’t get it. As a society we need to do better than this.”
Dolamore was described in court by his family as “kind and caring” but lacking in self-confidence, overconfidence and a poor judge of character. She was sexually assaulted as a student, and in the fall of 2017 she reported to the police that she had been raped, although she did not tell her family about any of the assaults and they only found out after her death.
On the night of 8 January 2018, he left the house of a friend, Nick Midwood, after an argument and went to the bridge. He followed and dialed 999 when he saw her body on the tracks, telling the operator: “I think he just jumped off the bridge.” He described her as a “diamond” but also said: “I’m a bit angry with her.”
One of the issues the six-day inquest looked at was whether there was another party involved in Dolamore’s death. The coroner asked Midwood directly if he pushed her, and he replied: “No, I didn’t.” The coroner accepted that this was true.
The inquest heard that a police investigator was appointed to Dolamore’s case at the end of September 2017. It was intended that a sexual offenses liaison officer would be appointed at the same time but this did not happen until a month later.
The court heard there was a shortage of officers working to investigate rape. In January there were around 600 cases of rape or serious sexual assault going on in Devon and Cornwall. There are 40 detectives working on these cases, and 22 vacancies. Cox said he was “troubled” by it, adding: “It must have an impact on the amount or quality of work that can be done.” He was told it could take up to six weeks for a video interview to take place.
Although Dolamore’s GP was concerned about his mental health, neither of the two organizations he referred to helped him. The first thought that he presented was “too dangerous for them”, while the community mental health team did not get him.
He “fell between two organizations”, the coroner said. “Mental health provision in this county falls far short of the need that exists.”
Cox praised the work of charities working with victims and survivors, but noted they have waiting lists of up to six months. He said he was surprised that a “patchwork” of charitable support, rather than statutory services, had done more work for survivors.
It was revealed during the inquest that when the 999 call was made, it was mis-categorised, leading to a delay of up to 27 minutes in Dolamore’s arrival – although the inquest was told his injuries were too serious to be life-saving survive.
The coroner gave an open conclusion and said that he would suggest writing to the police about their staff, and to the government on the issue of support for victims of sexual assault.
Information and support for anyone affected by issues of rape or sexual abuse is available from the following organizations. In the UK, Rape Crisis offers support on 0808 500 2222 in England and Wales, 0808 801 0302 in Scotland, or 0800 0246 991 in Northern Ireland. In the US, Rainn offers support at 800-656-4673. In Australia, support is available on 1800Respect (1800 737 732). Other international helplines can be found at ibiblio.org/rcip/internl.html