The Police Investigations & Review Commissioner (PIRC) has found that a specialist police team failed to carry out a “full and systematic” search of the property of 64-year-old Arnold Mouat whose body was later discovered there, a month after he was reported missing. 

Commissioner Kate Frame said the inadequate search by the Police Search Advisor (PolSA)- led team added to the distress and uncertainty of Mr Mouat’s family.

The PIRC investigation focused on why Mr Mouat was not found by police officers during the search of his home address and outbuildings on 7 July 2017.

In a report published today, 24 April 2018, the Commissioner said the Police Scotland building search report recorded that the search of Mr Mouat’s house, gardens, vehicle and garage was completed in 40 minutes and in particular that the search of the garage and gardens was completed within 5 minutes. 

An internal review of the incident by Police Scotland acknowledged that a more extensive search should have been carried out and procedures have since been reviewed and officers reminded of the processes to follow during missing persons searches. 

Commissioner Kate Frame said:

"Clearly, if the police had carried out a thorough search of the garage area, then it is highly likely that they would have discovered Mr Mouat’s body, something acknowledged by Police Scotland’s own internal review.
"In light of this case, I have made several recommendations which I have shared with the Deputy Chief Constable to enable him to put measures in place and take corrective action to prevent such failings happening again."

The PIRC investigation also found items of evidence which were seized during the search were not recorded or documented on the building search report as required by Police Scotland’s own procedures. 

A statement on behalf of Mr Mouat’s family said:

"The past 8 months have been incredibly difficult for our family as we have tried to come to terms with the loss of a loving father and husband.
"We are aware of the PIRC report and note that a number of recommendations have been made. Going forward we hope that Police Scotland will look carefully at these recommendations and that valuable lessons have been learned.
"As a family, we are grateful for the support we have received but we would now ask for our privacy to be respected to allow us to come to terms with our loss in peace."

(Notes to Editors: The extended family of Arnold Mouat have asked the PIRC to request that media outlets do not make attempts to contact them.)

Mr Mouat, of Bo’ness, was reported missing to Police Scotland on the morning of 7 July 2017. An initial search of the house, garden and outbuildings was carried out by officers and the PolSA team were called in the same day to carry out a more thorough search.

Police Scotland continued their search for Mr Mouat until his body was discovered on 5 August 2017 by a relative. A post mortem ascertained the cause of death as asphyxiation and revealed that he had been dead for some time.

Police Scotland referred the incident to the PIRC in terms of the Police and Fire Reform Act 2012 and the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (Investigations Procedure, Serious Incidents and Specified Weapons) Regulations 2013.

The PIRC report said Police Scotland’s internal review of the conduct of the search at Mr Mouat’s home concluded that, "crucially the search in the area of the garage cannot have been deemed to have been thorough and systematic, even if the remit had originally to have been only to look for the Missing Person, as all indications are that he was within the garage from Day 1".

The Commissioner recommended that:

  • Police Scotland reinforce to officers undertaking missing person searches, particularly PolSA led searches, of the need to be thorough and systematic in their searches and accurately detail and record all areas searched and items recovered.
  • The findings contained in Police Scotland’s Missing Person search review (of this case), that officers should undertake their searches in accord with the parameters drawn up by a search advisor (the Search Contract), should be implemented. Once the search is completed, the areas searched, the nature and time taken to undertake the search, should be compared against these parameters by an independent supervisory officer to determine whether or not a search was conducted thoroughly and systematically.
  • The National Search Oversight Group (SOG) should regularly review searches in missing person enquiries to ensure they are being undertaken in accordance with national guidelines.
  • All items seized by police during a search must be properly recorded and entered as productions.