Coroner Gracie Spinks tells jury to return wrongful death verdict

The coroner at the inquest into the death of Gracie Spinks has told jurors he must return only a finding that she was unlawfully killed.

Assistant Coroner for Derby and Derbyshire, Matthew Kewley, told the 10 jurors at Chesterfield Coroner's Court that he was “in effect telling them” to conclude that Ms Spinks, 23, died as a result of a fatal stabbing by 35-year-old Michael. Sellers.

The jury – members of which wore pink and purple wristbands in Gracie's memory – are due to retire on Wednesday to consider where, when, how and in what circumstances Ms Spinks died after hearing evidence from October 30.

But Mr Kewley said the jury should return a finding of unlawful killing only because of the nature of the evidence.

The evidence overwhelmingly shows that Gracie was killed by Michael Sellers

Matthew Kewley

He said: “While yes, it's up to you, basically, I'm telling you the conclusion you have to come to.

“It is an inference that is used when you are satisfied on the balance of probabilities that in this case Gracie died as a result of the criminal offense of murder.

“The evidence overwhelmingly shows that Gracie was killed by Michael Sellers.

“There can be no real argument for that in my view.

You can tell from me that there is no indication that Michael Sellers was acting in any kind of self-defense. He was the aggressor and that is why I am telling you that Gracie was unlawfully killed.

Matthew Kewley

“You can understand from me that there is no indication that Michael Sellers was acting in any kind of self-defense.

“He was the aggressor and that's why I'm telling you Gracie was wrongfully killed.”

The inquest heard that Ms Spinks was killed while tending to her horse at Blue Lodge Farm in Duckmanton, Derbyshire, on June 18, 2021, with Sellers' body found a short distance away later that day with a self-inflicted wound.

Several months earlier, Ms Spinks had reported “creepy” Sellers to their employer and the police over stalking concerns after he had refused to pursue a romantic relationship.

This followed Sellers repeatedly contacting her without permission and “virtually hounding” colleagues for information about her, Mr Kewley said, and watching her on CCTV in their workplace.

However, Derbyshire Police only rated him as low risk and gave him advice, even though Sellers told them he believed he was in a relationship with Ms Spinks.

In May 2021, a bag of weapons – which also contained Viagra tablets and a note saying ‘don't lie' – was found in a bridleway near where Ms Spinks' horse had been, but it was disposed of by police, with an officer to believe were stage sets.

Several officers gave evidence to the inquest, with one saying the weapons should have been a “concern” and another telling Ms Spinks' family he was “really sorry” and said the force “should have done better”.

But Mr Kewley told jurors they were not going to decide whether multiple failings admitted by police contributed to Ms Spinks' death.

But he told jurors to refer to them in their conclusion so “there is a clear record of the fact that there were serious failings by the police”.

He said: “It would not be safe for you to consider whether, had any of these failures not occurred, the outcome might have been different.

“It is not possible to say whether the result would have been different.

“It is accepted by Derbyshire Police that these failures occurred.”

The investigation continues.