Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

Police 'too slow' to find Musselburgh woman found dead in cupboard

police officers

Police should have been been sent sooner to the home of a 39-year-old woman whose body was later found in a cupboard, an official report has found.

The woman, from Musselburgh, East Lothian, was listed as a vulnerable person after a call from a concerned family member.

The call was identified as requiring staff "to make every effort" to allocate resources within 15 minutes.

But it was 12 hours before a full search of the house was carried out.

A report by the Police Investigations & Review Commissioner (Pirc) found that it could not be determined whether the unidentified woman's death could have been prevented.

The cause of death was determined as alcoholic ketoacidosis.

'Priority incidents'

The report said that a family member contacted Police Scotland at about 13:55 on 8 May 2018 - three days after the woman was last seen or heard from.

The family member reported that the woman was on Police Scotland's interim Vulnerable Person Database (VPD).

However, Pirc found no resources were available at that time as police were dealing with "other priority incidents".

No-one had been sent to the woman's house by 17:00, so a police sergeant went to the address "on his own initiative". He did not get any response.

Four hours later, the sergeant returned and managed to slip the lock before carrying out "a cursory search of the property".

Social workers then provided further information on the woman and the incident was declared a missing person inquiry.

Decision-making

Other police officers were sent to the address where they found the woman's body in a cupboard next to the front door at 02:30 on 9 May 2018.

The Pirc investigation focused on Police Scotland's "handling of the incident, the decision-making processes relating to family concerns for the woman's welfare and the subsequent action taken".

It made a number of recommendations, including:

  • Police Scotland should look again at the previous commitment it made to review "resource allocation and call-handling issues"
  • Examine its decision-making process in relation to risk throughout this entire incident
  • And look at the deployment of other resources in Edinburgh, the Lothians and Borders while dealing with other priority incidents

Police Scotland must now report back to Pirc within three months.

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