Woman believed to have been fatally stabbed by man she reported for stalking

Gracie Spinks was described by the coroner as ‘very hard-working and very popular’ (Family handout/PA)
Gracie Spinks was described by the coroner as ‘very hard-working and very popular’ (Family handout/PA)

A young woman is believed to have been fatally stabbed by a former colleague after he became “obsessed” with her despite stalking concerns being raised with police, an inquest jury has heard.

Gracie Spinks, 23, died on the morning of June 18 2021 from 10 stab wounds believed to have been inflicted by 35-year-old Michael Sellars, six months after she had refused to pursue a romantic relationship with him.

Sellars was found dead 150 metres away later that morning and had left a note saying he “could not deal with all of her lies”, which a coroner said was one of “various pieces of evidence” that Sellars had killed Ms Spinks and then taken his own life.

Ms Spinks had reported Sellars to both their employer and the police over stalking concerns in the months before their deaths after he refused to accept her decision, and he was given “words of advice” by officers.

But they took no action when a bag of weapons was found near where her horse was stabled in Duckmanton, Derbyshire, which included a note saying “Do not lie”, just over a month prior to their deaths.

Resuming an inquest at Chesterfield Coroner’s Court on Monday, Matthew Kewley, Assistant Coroner for Derby and Derbyshire, said: “Gracie left home early to go and see her horse in the field.

“Just after 8am, a number of other people arrived at the field and Gracie was found lying on the ground and a man was seen running away,

“It was initially thought she may have been attacked by a horse.

“At about 8.13am the emergency services were called. Paramedics went to the field.

“The emergency services did the best they could to save Gracie. Sadly they were unable to do so and sadly she died at about 8.50am.

“While the emergency services were attending to Gracie, a knife was found near to where Gracie was discovered.

“Soon a possible link was made with Michael Sellars. At around 11am, Michael Sellars was also found and he was deceased.

“It appeared that Michael Sellars had taken his own life and a suicide note was recovered.”

Ms Spinks, an avid horse rider, was later deemed to have died from a stab wound to the neck, with paramedics who attended the scene describing “catastrophic” bleeding.

Ms Spinks was also found with a number of defensive injuries, the court heard (Family Handout/PA)
Gracie Spinks was found with a number of defensive injuries (Family handout/PA)

Summarising the background to the case to a jury of 11, Mr Kewley said Ms Spinks first met Sellars when she got a job at a warehouse run by e-commerce firm xbite in April 2020.

Sellars, a supervisor, had been with the company since 2015 and had been the subject of complaints from “a number of female colleagues” about his behaviour towards them.

He “started to show an interest” in Ms Spinks and the pair met up outside work “on a number of occasions”, but she decided in December 2020 that she did not wish to continue meeting up or be in a relationship with him.

Mr Kewley said: “Michael Sellars could not accept Gracie Spinks’ decision and he did not respect her decision.

“Mr Sellars would continue to try and engage with Gracie and would persistently ask other staff for information about Gracie.

“It would appear that Mr Sellars had become obsessed with Gracie and could not accept her decision.”

On January 4 2021, Ms Spinks was travelling to Blue Lodge Farm, where her horse, Paddy, was stabled, when she saw Sellars parked in a lay-by.

She reported the incident to xbite, with Sellars suspended and later dismissed, but during the disciplinary process he said he “thought Gracie had lied about the nature of the relationship between them”, Mr Kewley said.

A month later Ms Spinks reported her concerns to Derbyshire Police, claiming she was worried about a repeat of the incident, but he was only given “words of advice” following an investigation.

Then, on May 6 that year, a member of the public found a rucksack containing knives, an axe and a hammer near Blue Lodge Farm, which contained a note which read “Do not lie”.

While the bag contained a Marks & Spencer receipt, which was traced back to one of Sellars’ relatives after his death, officers “were not concerned” and no further action was taken.

Following the deaths, the Independent Office for Police Conduct said five Derbyshire Police officers had cases to answer for misconduct.

Mr Kewley told the jurors they are tasked with finding how, on the balance of probabilities, Ms Spinks died, including whether police could or should have done more to investigate the incidents prior to her death.

Reading a statement outside the court on Monday, Sajad Chaudhury, representing Ms Spinks’ family, said: “Gracie was snatched away from us by a coward, who was unwilling to face the consequences of unthinking actions.

“We cannot hold him to account. We have had no closure.

“The inquest will enable the nation to hear the distressing facts as to how and in what circumstances Gracie was killed, the events leading up to Gracie’s death, and her interaction with the police in reporting her stalker.”

The inquest continues.