Glasgow & West Scotland

Body found after police failed to list Ayrshire woman missing

police officer

Police officers failed to list a 38-year-old woman who was later found dead as a missing person, an investigation has found.

The woman's body was discovered at her home in Ayrshire 12 hours after concerns were first raised about her.

The Police Investigation & Review Commissioner (Pirc) found officers initially carried out "appropriate inquiries" about the woman.

But, having failed to find her, they did not create a missing person report.

A Pirc investigation said this would have been in line with Police Scotland procedures and would have resulted in the woman's home being searched.

Priority incidents

However, the report said it was unlikely the woman's death could have been prevented if she had been found on the first police visit on 28 December 2018.

Since then, Police Scotland has implemented a number of recommendations made by the Pirc. These include:

  • Reinforcing to officers the procedures to follow in missing person cases
  • Reminding control room staff of the importance of providing officers with all relevant information
  • Reinforcing to control room staff and police supervisors the importance of regular and relevant communication for prolonged priority incidents.

Police Scotland was first contacted by an addiction service worker on 28 December last year to say the woman had failed to attend a social services appointment.

The woman had poor mental health and had not collected prescribed medication for four days.

The service worker said this was unusual behaviour for the woman and he had gone to her house but got no response

A police call handler later sent officers to the property but they "could not establish if she was at home".

'Someone moving'

They made inquiries with neighbours who said they had heard someone moving around the house as recently as the previous evening.

Before going off duty, the officers made further inquiries before passing the case on to the next shift.

The following day, the case was assessed by a night shift police supervisor who sent further officers to the woman's house.

When they arrived, they looked through a small gap in a window blind next to the front door and saw her lying on the floor.

The officers forced their way into the house and found the woman unresponsive. Paramedics were called and confirmed she was dead.

The Pirc investigation found the call handler should have provided more background about the woman to officers, including her mental health issues.

It also found the officers and their supervisor assumed noises reported inside the house were made by the woman and that she was alive at the time.

Police Scotland Assistant Chief Constable John Hawkins confirmed the Pirc recommendations had been implemented.

He said: "This was a tragic death and our thoughts remain with the woman's family and friends.

"We are introducing a new approach to call assessment to ensure we can provide better service to the public."

He said this would involve taking more information from the caller "so that we can make a more robust assessment of risk, threat and harm and vulnerability to ensure every caller gets the right response".

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