Jessica Patel was killed by her husband after years of abuse (Photo: Cleveland Police)

A pharmacist was brutally murdered by her husband who wanted to start a new life with his gay lover in Australia, a review into her death has found.

Jessica Patel’s family has urged people to “open their eyes, ask questions and never assume everything is okay” to root out the “act of evil” as an independent review called for measures to curb domestic abuse and honour-based violence.

A 74-page document, which primarily focused on how local services responded to Jessica prior to her tragic death, noted that she was “not known to agencies”.

Jessica was murdered at her Middlesbrough home in May, 2018 by her gay husband, Mitesh Patel – also a pharmacist – who had abused the 34-year-old throughout their nine-year marriage.

Mitesh had initially reported to the police that Jessica had been tied up after an intruder broke into their house, in a failed bid to make it appear as though the fatal assault took place during a burglary attempt.

Subsequently, however, Mitesh was convicted of murder, and sentenced to life with a minimum term of 30 years.

During the trial, it had emerged that he had planned to claim a £2-million life insurance payout and move to Sydney with a male doctor who was his “soulmate”.

Detectives had also found concrete evidence that Mitesh had always “behaved in a coercive and controlling way towards” Jessica and had also physically assaulted her.

Commissioned by the Middlesbrough Community Safety Partnership in line with Home Office guidance, the report called for review of the effectiveness of information provided to communities at large about recognising the signs of domestic abuse, and how people could raise alarm, if necessary, anonymously.

According to the review, some family members had been aware of issues between Jessica and Mitesh.

For instance, Jessica discussed with her sister the torment she had been experiencing, and once told her that Mitesh had hit her during an argument over visiting their dying grandfather.

Similarly, she told a female cousin and uncle that her relationship with Mitesh was “problematic and she wasn’t happy”.

“Jessica asked her uncle not to disclose the conversation to her father and she said she would make the relationship work,” added the report.

It also noted that several employees at a Middlesbrough pharmacy run by Jessica and Mitesh had observed that all was not well with the couple.

They had been aghast at Mitesh’s “abusive behaviour” towards Jessica, who had doubts about his sexual orientation.

One of the colleagues recalled that Mitesh had “a very quick temper”, and “often shouted at Jessica in front of staff and customers”.

Another one said Mitesh “often reduced Jessica to tears in the shop, slammed doors, threw things and kicked the plinth of the island in the dispensary”.

Just two months before Jessica’s murder, a colleague had asked Jessica why she was limping. She had replied vaguely that “she didn’t know what had happened, but she had a big bruise on the front of her thigh”.

Mitesh, however, had told a colleague that “he had thrown his mobile phone towards Jessica, which had hit her leg and that she bruised easily”.

Mitesh Patel (Courtesy: Cleveland Police)

Furthermore, the review said health agencies should “ensure professionals are trained in recognising abuse, being alert to indicators and understanding the links between mental health and domestic abuse”.

For instance, Jessica had once told her GP, who was well-known to the couple, that she was “feeling under pressure to conceive”, and was referred for cognitive therapy. She was subsequently prescribed medication for anxiety and depression.

“There is no information within any of the GP records that indicate Jessica disclosed domestic abuse or any of the indicators of domestic abuse,” said the report. “There is nothing within the records to indicate whether or not she was asked any direct questions about domestic abuse.”

The report recommended that NHS England could “consider issuing guidance to GP practices to ensure patient care is not impacted upon by other pre-existing relationships”.

It added that professionals tackling the issue should also be trained well in recognising “the barriers that victims of domestic abuse may face”, and identifying and responding to “honour-based violence”.

The review also highlighted that the Home Office should help develop “best practice for small family-owned and run businesses with guidance on how to deal with disclosures, suspicions or indicators of domestic abuse”.

Councillor Mieka Smiles, Middlesbrough Council’s executive member for culture and communities and chair of the Community Safety Partnership, said: “Jessica’s family have suffered a great deal and we wish to express our sincerest condolences to them.

“Their invaluable input has helped to paint a fuller picture of Jessica’s life, and gave her the voice – which was taken from her — to disclose the extent of abuse she suffered at the hands of her perpetrator.

“Jessica was not involved with many agencies prior to her death, but we learned that there is more that we can do both locally and nationally for victims of domestic abuse, specifically those from BAME communities.

“That includes increasing understanding of ‘honour-based’ violence and ensuring that family, friends, employers and the wider community know how to recognise the signs, report their concerns and support those in need.”

Ged McManus, independent chair and author of the report, lauded Jessica’s family “for the fortitude and positive attitude they have shown throughout the process”.

“Jessica was not well known to services in Middlesbrough before her death,” he noted.

“This report does not point to failures of services but it does suggest ways in which services can be improved and the risk for other potential victims in the future can be reduced.

“I hope that her family can find some comfort in the fact that there will be improvements made as a result of the report.”

Jessica’s family said: “We hope this review will help other victims, those closest to them and the wider public to recognise the various forms and signs of abuse and will remove any barriers, be it cultural or otherwise, to seeking help and getting the support they need.

“As a family this review was an extremely painful process, but we recognise the importance of highlighting Jessica’s story to provide a voice for her and others that may be suffering in silence.”

Timeline of abuse 

  • 2002/3 – Jessica attends university at De Montfort Leicester and has a short relationship with Mitesh
  • July 2005 – Jessica graduates from De Montfort University
  • Sept 2006 – Jessica starts studies in pharmacy at Manchester University
  • 2008 – Jessica speaks to her father about marrying Mitesh
  • July 2009 – The couple marry
  • February 2010 – Jessica’s grandfather is very ill and dies – Mitesh refuses to let her return home and stay with her family. Jessica discloses she was hit by Mitesh in a car
  • July 2010 – Jessica graduates from Manchester University
  • 2010/11 – Jessica works at a pharmacy in Bradford and disclosures to a colleague she suspects he is gay
  • 2012 – Jessica tells her cousin of relationship problems while on holiday and of Mitesh spending a long time speaking to another man on the phone
  • Dec 2012 – Jessica’s sister finds an intimate text conversation between Mitesh and his lover
  • 2013/14 – The Patels move to Middlesbrough
  • April 2015 – Jessica and Mitesh purchase the lease on a pharmacy – Mitesh lies about Jessica being pregnant
  • Oct 2015 – Jessica starts IVF treatment
  • 2016 – The Patels purchase their Linthorpe home
  • April 2016 – Jessica tells her GP she feels under pressure to conceive and is sent for cognitive therapy
  • September 2016 – Jessica is prescribed medication for anxiety and depression by her GP
  • January 2017 – The Patels attend their GP for a referral to a fertility clinic
  • July/August 2017 – Both attend James Cook University Hospital fertility clinic
  • 2017 – Pharmacy colleagues review CCTV and see Mitesh kissing and groping another male, they also uncover he is taking medication to lower his sperm count.
  • February 2018 – Jessica’s sister tells of Facetime conversation where Jessica tells of how Mitesh put his hands around her neck
  • March 2018 – Jessica’s IVF is successful and three embryos are frozen
  • May 14, 2018 – Jessica is found after being suffocated by Mitesh

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