‘Show respect’: Nottingham attack families horrified by ‘barbaric’ police WhatsApp message


A police officer described the students stabbed to death in Nottingham last summer as “proper butchered” and said officers “tried to hold their inners in”.

Sky News can reveal the “disgusting” police WhatsApp message sent in the aftermath of the killings of Barnaby Webber and Grace O’Malley-Kumar on 13 June 2023.

Their families are horrified by the language used by an officer when discussing the stabbings with colleagues.

Valdo Calocane, 32, a paranoid schizophrenic, stabbed the two 19-year-olds to death as they walked home from a night out before flagging down and killing 65-year-old school caretaker Ian Coates.

At the time, one officer messaged colleagues on a WhatsApp group.

The message said: “So 2 students on Ilkeston road have been proper butchered, 4 section [officers] turned up and tried to hold their inners in. Suspects then made off and attacked a man in a car on magdala [road] and stabbed him to death.”

Another officer, PC Matt Gell, then shared the message outside of the police WhatsApp group with his wife and two friends.

More on Nottingham Attacks

The families of Barnaby and Grace learned of the contents of the message in February but were so disturbed by its contents that they have only felt comfortable publicising it now, despite the pain it causes them.

Grace’s father, Dr Sanjoy Kumar, said the message is “so disgusting”.

Undated handout photo issued by Nottinghamshire Police of Valdo Calocane. Prosecutors have accepted Calocane's pleas of not guilty to murder and guilty to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility due to mental illness, for the murders of Grace O'Malley-Kumar, Barnaby Webber and Ian Coates, and the attempted murder of three others, in a spate of attacks in Nottingham on June 13 2023. Issue date: Tuesday January 23, 2024.
Valdo Calocane was given a hospital order for the killings. Pic: PA

“Would anyone with a child, a mother, a relative use words like that?” he asked.

“Why have police in Nottinghamshire forgotten that these are our dear and beloved children they are referring to? I have tears in my eyes every time the message echoes in my head,” said Dr Kumar.

“The message is as barbaric as the crime for me.”

Nottinghamshire’s chief constable Kate Meynell acknowledged to Dr Kumar that some of the WhatsApp message was “crude and distasteful”.

‘Callous and degrading’

Emma Webber, Barnaby’s mother, has now written an open letter to the members of the WhatsApp group after requests to meet the officers involved were rejected by the force.

“The callous, degrading and desensitised manner of your comments have caused more trauma than you can imagine,” she wrote.

“When you say ‘a couple of students have been properly butchered’ did you stop to think about the absolute terror that they felt in the moment when they were ambushed and repeatedly stabbed by a man who had planned his attack and lay waiting in the shadows for them?

“When you say ‘innards out and everything’ did you think about the agony they felt and the final thoughts that went through their minds as this vicious individual inflicted wounds so serious that they had no chance of surviving?”

Ian Coates
Pic:Huntingdon Academy
Caretaker Ian Coates was also murdered in the rampage. Pic: Huntingdon Academy

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‘Murderers can get away with murder’ – victims’ families

Mrs Webber’s letter also calls for tougher action for the officer involved.

“Anyone who can witness the details of such a horror as happened… and refer to lost children as butchered animals; should seriously consider their position,” she says.

“So, to the author of that message, who we understand has received a management warning. I pray you will read this and pause for a while.

“Dig a little deeper for compassion and care. Show the respect in the future that you did not afford Barney.”

PC admits ‘lapse of judgement’

The officer who wrote the message did not face a misconduct hearing but received ‘management intervention’.

In January, PC Gell, who forwarded the message to people outside the force, was found guilty of gross misconduct and given a final written warning after he looked up records relating to Calocane when he had no part in the investigation.

Read more:
Prosecutors ‘correct’ to accept killer’s manslaughter plea
Victim’s mum ‘burst into tears’ when told of sentence review

Police forensics officers search a white van on the corner of Maples Street and Bentinck Road in Nottingham
Forensics officers at the scene after the June attacks. Pic: PA

The panel at the hearing agreed with his acknowledgement that he had “a lapse of judgement”.

A special constable was also sacked for viewing body-worn footage of the two students in their final moments.

Almost 180 police staff were found to have viewed material relating to the case, with 11 of them having no “legitimate reason” to do so.

Nottinghamshire Police referred itself to the Independent Office for Police Conduct after the families raised a number of concerns over the investigation and police conduct, including the force’s failure to inform relatives their Professional Standards Directorate was investigating officers.

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The College of Policing is also conducting a review of how the force handled the case.

Deputy Chief Constable Steve Cooper previously told Sky News that action over the WhatsApp message was taken “immediately”.

“Some of the words were crude and distasteful. It was a single message and no images were taken or shared,” he said.

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