To view original article click here
Manchester Evening News (First published by the Middleton Guardian)
Published: 22nd March 2007
An innocent housewife was driven to suicide by the stress of facing a police investigation – unaware the case had been dropped two weeks earlier. Voluntary worker Maureen Zandi, 61, suffered `five months of hell’ after she and her husband were arrested on suspicion of fraud. A travel agent claimed they tried to exchange counterfeit money. But when the case was dropped by the Crown Prosecution Service because of insufficient evidence, the couple were not informed of the decision.
A CORONER has rapped police procedures after a woman faced with criminal proceedings killed herself, not knowing charges had been dropped.
Pensioner Maureen Zandi, aged 61, killed herself after suffering “five months of hell” while under police investigation, an inquest heard. She hanged herself in the garage of her home unaware the Crown Prosecution Service had decided to drop the charges against her and her husband two weeks earlier.
Her tragic death has since forced Greater Manchester Police to tighten up “loose” legislation involving those on pre-charge unconditional bail.
The inquest in Rochdale heard how Mrs Zandi was plunged into depression after being arrested with her husband, Faramarz Zandi, on suspicion of attempting to obtain property by deception.
On 30 November 2005 Mrs Zandi had gone to Thomas Cook travel agents in Middleton Gardens to change £400 into Euros. But staff informed her £200 of that cash was counterfeit money.
Mrs Zandi, who dedicated her time to volunteering since her retirement, returned to Thomas Cook later that morning with Mr Zandi and they were both arrested.
They were taken to Rochdale Police Station and released on unconditional bail.
Over the next few weeks Mrs Zandi visited her GP on five occasions and was prescribed anti-depressants due to the stress and anxiety of the ongoing inquiry. Mr Zandi told the inquest that she was embarrassed by what had happened and could not face her friends.
He said: “For five months we went through hell. She said it was evil what had happened. We were innocent. She couldn’t cope with it. I think she couldn’t see a way out.”
The couple were rebailed until 11 March and again until 27 April as police continued their inquiries.
But on 19 April Mr Zandi found his wife dead.
Two days later an inspector from Middleton Police Station visited Mr Zandi at his home on Boothroyden Close, Rhodes, to tell him the prosecution against the couple had been dropped on 3 April, due to insufficient evidence. A fact the couple were unaware of.
An inquiry into the circumstances surrounding Mrs Zandi’s case was subsequently launched by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).
Chief Inspector Anthony Johnston from GMP’s internal affairs division, who produced the report for IPCC, said there had been reasonable grounds for arresting Mr and Mrs Zandi and that staff complied with existing procedure regarding informing people on unconditional bail their case had been dropped. But he found there were lessons to be learned and that policy should be rewritten, strengthened and improved.
The inquest heard the inquiry has led to the publication of a document called ‘Pre-Trial Bail Management’ which states that responsibility for sending out ‘no further action’ letters is now “tethered firmly” to the custody officer and such letters should be sent out without delay.
Mr Johnston added: “I say Mr Zandi has every right to feel that he should have been informed of the decision by the CPS to drop the charges against Mr and Mrs Zandi. He believed had this been done Mrs Zandi may still be alive.”
Coroner Simon Nelson said no-one involved in the investigation could have envisioned such a tragic outcome but believed procedures had since been appropriately tightened up.
He added: “Clearly (Mrs Zandi) was not criminally sophisticated. She was traumatised and suffered by reason of the accusations that had been made and by reason of her remaining on bail.”
Recording a narrative verdict, Mr Nelson said he was satisfied that Mrs Zandi intended to take her own life and that she “suffered from symptoms of anxiety and depression precipitated wholly or in part by her remaining on bail and being unaware that the decision not to prosecute had been made.
“By my use of that wording I have clearly recognised a link between Mrs Zandi’s death and the fact of her being on bail and the decision not to prosecute not being communicated to her.”