Died 13th November 2013

Susan Bowles (55) was found dead on 13th November 2013 in the stairwell of a block of flats in George Street, Hastings, East Sussex. Police were called to the flats by neighbours at 10.35pm. She died as the result of a head injury. Her death is unexplained, but the police no longer consider the death to be suspicious.

At first a 61-year-old man from Hastings was arrested on suspicion of murder, and bailed pending further inquiries. A murder investigation took place. However, the police later reported, in February 2014, that no further action was to be taken and the man’s bail was cancelled.

After Ms Bowles’ death, her family said: “We are shocked and saddened at the tragic news.” At that time, Detective Chief Inspector Jon Fanner of Sussex Police confirmed that the arrested man was known to the dead woman, but would not comment on the nature of the relationship. He confirmed that the police were treating “the death as unexplained” and “keeping an open mind as to what has happened.”

Detectives appealed for witnesses as they tried to trace the movements of the victim over the last three-and-a-half hours of her life. DCI Fanner said at the time that he was “keen to speak to anyone who was in the area and may have seen the woman… or who saw or heard anything suspicious.”

Local councillor John Hodges, commented soon after Ms Bowles’ death. He was quoted in the Argus as follows: “It’s exactly the news that Hastings doesn’t want and has never wanted. By and large the record on crime is very good and the last two police commanders have driven crime levels downwards and that trend continues downwards. Contrary to what the Daily Mail and other newspapers say, we are not a crime-ridden town.” He added “All the information seems to indicate this is a domestic incident and not something the police can legislate for. George Street is a busy thoroughfare, it’s not an empty or desolate street. It’s probably the busiest street in Old Hastings and at times the busiest in town. It’s like the social centre of the town, full of busy restaurants, public houses and independent shops.”

Note: this report was drawn from reports in the Argus and the BBC.

FOD Comment: We are deeply perturbed at the statement attributed to local councillor John Hodges, which was made directly after the report of her death. It expressed no horror at the loss of this woman’s life nor made any statement of sympathy or condolence. Councillor Hodges’s words suggest he is more concerned about the reputation of Hastings, than about the death of a woman who lived there. We are also greatly troubled that he referred to the death, which was then believed to be a homicide as a “domestic incident” and “not not something the police can legislate for”. Domestic homicide is a major killer of women, just as illegal as any other form of homicide. It should be taken seriously by police and the courts – and all politicians. Such homicides very often result from an escalating pattern of abuse and domestic violence by the abuser. Early and effective intervention by police and the courts could prevent such deaths and many injuries. Around two women die each week at the hands of partners and ex-partners. Councillor Hodges should be ashamed.

We repeat that though there still seems no certainty about how and why this particular victim died, the police no longer consider the death to be suspicious.

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