An investigation report has found that Police Scotland failed to categorise a 38-year-old woman as a missing person after concern was raised for her welfare.

She was later found unresponsive at her Ayrshire home and pronounced dead.

While officers who were initially called out to the woman’s house carried out appropriate enquiries to locate the woman, having failed to find her they should have then created a missing person report in line with Police Scotland procedures. This should have resulted in her home being searched.

However, it is unlikely if the officers had forced entry to the house earlier, that the woman’s death could have been prevented.

An investigation report, for the Police Investigation & Review Commissioner, into the circumstances leading to the death was submitted to Police Scotland in June.

Since then, police have implemented a number of recommendations made by the PIRC to:

  • Reinforce to officers the procedures to follow in missing person cases;
  • Remind staff in the Area Control Room of the importance of providing officers with all relevant information;
  • Reinforce to ACR staff and police supervisors of the importance of regular and relevant communication to ensure that prolonged priority incidents are appropriately resourced.

Police Scotland have also changed the overall system of managing calls made by the public and other agencies asking for police assistance. The introduction of the Contact Assessment Model (CAM) in June provides further guidance to determine the management and oversight  of calls for help from the public.

A summary of the findings of the investigation can now be published, taking into account the views of the woman’s family.

Police Scotland were first contacted by an addiction service worker on 28 December 2018 to say the woman had failed to attend an appointment for an important meeting with Social Services, 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 had got no response.

A Communications Controller in Govan’s Area Control Room (ACR) sent officers to the woman’s house but they received no reply and after checking the property could not establish if she was at home.

They made enquiries with neighbours who said they had not seen her for four days but had heard someone moving around the house as recently as the previous evening. Before going off duty, the officers made further enquiries with the woman’s friends but failed to locate her and passed the enquiry on to the next shift to progress.

During the early evening of 28 December, a police response supervisor contacted the ACR and it was agreed that officers would make further enquiries at the woman’s home.

In the early hours of 29 December, some 12 hours after the initial reports of concern were received, the incident was assessed by a night shift police supervisor, who sent police 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. They forced their way into the house and found the woman unresponsive. Paramedics were called and confirmed she was dead.   

The PIRC investigation found that the ACR Communications Controller should have provided more background about the woman to the officers attending the initial report of concern, including her mental health issues. It also found that the initial attending officers and their supervisor assumed noises reported to have come from the woman’s house in the days prior to the report for her concern were made by the woman and they took this as an indication that she was alive and in the house at that time.

Police Scotland referred the incident to the PIRC on 31 December 2018 for independent investigation, which focused on the response to the initial concerns for the woman up until the discovery of her body at home.

You can read the report and its findings here