Police control room sent no-one to home of woman found dead 12 hours later

Police control room staff did not send any officers to the home of a woman who was found dead in a cupboard there 12 hours later, a report has found.

A family member contacted Police Scotland at around 1.55pm on May 8, 2018, to report concern for the woman she had not seen or heard from since May 5.

She told them the woman was on the police interim Vulnerable Person Database (VPD).

Despite this, police initially graded her as a Low Risk Missing Person, the Police Investigations & Review Commissioner (Pirc) report found.

The family member’s call was identified as a Grade 2 call – which requires Area Control Room (ACR) staff to make every effort to allocate resources within 15 minutes of the call being accepted.

However, there were no officers available as they were already dealing with other priority incidents.

As no resources had been deployed by 5pm on May 8 a police sergeant went to the address in Musselburgh, East Lothian, “on his own initiative”.

As there was no reply, he returned at 9pm as he was still concerned for the woman’s welfare.

He managed to get in by slipping the lock, but found nothing during a cursory search.

When he returned to the police station he learned that the Social Work department and a family member had provided more information about the woman and the incident was declared a Missing Person Enquiry.

Other officers went to the 39-year-old woman’s home where they carried out a search.

Her body was found in a cupboard at around 2.30am on May 9, with the cause of death determined as ‘Alcoholic Ketoacidosis’.

The report said: “Despite the fact that the incident was allocated Grade 2 status – priority which relates to a ‘Crime/Incident where there is a degree of urgency associated with police action’ – no police resources were dispatched by the Area Control Room to the home address of the deceased during the entire incident.

“The only officers to attend, did so unactioned and on their own initiative.”

The report said it cannot be determined from the medical evidence whether the woman would have been found alive if an effective search of the property had taken place at around 9pm on May 8.

PIRC has made a number of recommendations including that police should review the resource management and non-deployment of officers to the incident and take any necessary action to address ongoing shortfalls.

Police Scotland is also asked to “examine its decision making process in relation to risk throughout this entire incident (between 1.55pm hours on 8 May 2018 and 2.30am on 9 May 2018), giving particular cognisance to the facts that Police Scotland graded the woman as a Low Risk Missing Person despite information being provided by a family member and on police systems which indicated that she had serious health issues.”

It also recommended that Police Scotland should look again at the commitment it made to review “resource allocation and call handling issues”, which it provided in response to a previous Pirc investigation in 2016.

Assistant Chief Constable Paul Anderson of Police Scotland said: “Police Scotland’s sympathies remain with family of the woman concerned.

“We accept the findings of the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner and are actively working to address the issues identified.”

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