Police delayed checking flat of man later found dead, inquiry concludes
Recommendations have been made to police over their handling of missing person reports after a review concluded officers delayed visiting the home of a man who was later found dead.
An investigation by the independent Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (Pirc) was launched after a 37-year-old man was discovered in his flat over 24 hours after being reported missing by care staff at around 5.15pm on October 9 last year.
Care staff, who visited the man twice a day, became concerned for his welfare after they were unable to make contact with him.
The man had been reported missing on previous occasions, but was said to have always been found by police or returned home voluntarily within hours.
After the missing person report to police, the sergeant dealing with the case made initial inquiries and was told by a constable that a member of the concierge staff at the man’s flat said he had seen him at the property between 2am and 4am that morning.
The Pirc investigation found the sergeant discussed the matter with an inspector and concluded the man did not fit Police Scotland’s criteria for a missing person, and it was decided that no further action would be taken.
However, the review concluded the inspector did not check all appropriate steps had been taken to trace the man, including going to his flat, before agreeing to the sergeant’s decision.
A second missing person report was made by care staff at around 2.20pm on October 10 when they were unable to gain entry to the man’s flat.
The sergeant sent officers to the man’s home but when they arrived at around 4pm, they were unable to establish contact with him.
The officers forced entry at around 6pm, and they found the man dead in his bedroom.
A subsequent post-mortem examination and toxicology analysis established the cause of death as drug intoxication.
The Pirc report concluded the sergeant in charge of handling the incident should have sent officers to the man’s flat when he was first reported missing rather than waiting for the second report to be raised the following day.
It noted it was not possible to determine whether the man’s death could have been prevented.
Recommendations were made that all officers, with particular reference to the sergeant, should receive appropriate training and guidance on missing person reports.
The commissioner recommended that the inspector involved in the case be reminded of the importance of checking all steps have been taken before agreeing with a course of action.
The report also recommended that the constable who passed on information from concierge staff should be reminded of the need to note personal details of anyone giving information during inquiries.
Police Scotland Superintendent Hilary Sloan said: “We accept the commissioner’s recommendations and corrective advice will be given to the officers concerned.”