Capital police under fire over vulnerable Andrew’s death

Andrew Bow. Picture: contributed
Andrew Bow. Picture: contributed

A VULNERABLE man later found dead in his Capital flat was failed by police who took seven days to investigate, according to a watchdog’s damning findings.

Asperger’s sufferer Andrew Bow’s Southside neighbours repeatedly called officers after spotting his windows were smashed in March last year.

Police yesterday apologised for “shortcomings” in the wake of the Police Investigations & Review Commissioner (Pirc) report and said lessons had been learned.

“Someone could’ve broken into his flat and murdered him,” said neighbour Dougie McShane, 59.

“There could’ve been a fight or a struggle or he could’ve had a heart attack and tried to 
attract attention by smashing a window – we just don’t know why it took such a long time.”

Kitchen worker Mr Bow, 37, was last seen by police officers on March 12 last year, when they found him in a confused and paranoid state. He was taken to hospital and then back to his East Crosscauseway flat.

On March 16, police were contacted by the city council and asked to investigate reports that several windows of the flat had been broken, but no action was taken.

Five days later a shopkeeper called 999 to report the broken windows and offered to help police find the house. Again no officers were sent despite the shopkeeper calling again the next day.

Another neighbour also raised concerns over Mr Bow’s welfare, telling police that he may have “hurt himself” or “committed suicide”.

Officers failed to attend until March 23 after a sergeant read details about the calls on the force’s computer system. They smashed down the door and found Mr Bow dead.

A post-mortem was unable to provide an estimated time, date or cause of death.

The Pirc investigation 
uncovered a catalogue of failings in how Area Control Room (ACR) staff at Bilston Glen handled calls regarding Mr Bow’s welfare.

The centre was also criticised following the deaths of John Yuill and Lamara Bell in July 2015. The couple lay undiscovered for days after a crash on the M9 near Stirling, despite a sighting of their wrecked car being reported to the control room.

A report last year said the police call-handling performance had continued to improve since the two deaths.

But Commissioner Kate Frame said “a number of failings” were found by Pirc in response to repeated reports of concern for Mr Bow.

Pirc said no police resources were sent to the incident despite three separate calls reporting broken windows at the flat and concern for Mr Bow.

The flat was within a few minutes’ walk of Southside police office and community policing officers were available to respond, Pirc found.

Commissioner Kate Frame said the handling and management of calls dealt with by staff at Bilston Glen would have to be improved and that all available operational resources should be used for priority calls.

The Commissioner said: “It is particularly concerning that despite several members of the public contacting the police to express their concerns, Police Scotland appear to have taken no action in relation to the first approach and thereafter in response to the subsequent calls, failed to dispatch officers who were available, timeously, to 
investigate.

“Whilst there may have been confusion in identifying the correct address from the original report, the person who contacted the police on the second occasion offered to remain at his premises and point out the flat to officers. Had that opportunity been taken, the police would have been able to identify the deceased’s flat and investigate matters sooner.”

The owner of Backbeat Records on East Crosscauseway for 27 years, Dougie McShane, described the community’s shock at the time of Andrew’s death.

“People were certainly talking about it,” he said. “There were police cars and all sorts around at the time. There’s an old folks’ home and a children’s nursery round the corner and all sorts of people were asking what’s going on.”

Coming so close after the Stirling case, Mr McShane said tempers and a sense of being let down were intensified further. “It added to the fire and anger – it should’ve been fixed,” he said.

Many in the community are asking why it took officers so long to respond to reports of broken windows at Andrew’s flat.

“I have a lot of respect for police and the things they have to do – I couldn’t do that job,” said Mr McShane.

“But if this is about cutbacks and a financial decision, then shame on them because these things should be properly 
financed.

“I’m not political but if we can spend £1 billion on trams that are vastly overpriced but can’t get enough police – you can only spend the money once.”

Andrew’s tragic death came only a week after his friend is believed to have committed suicide.

“Andrew was a bit of a loner and didn’t have many friends but I’d see him walking down the street with this guy,” said Mr McShane. “Both of them were always smartly dressed and didn’t drink.”

And he described Mr Bow’s sense of community. “A few years ago during a bad winter, I was clearing snow and ice from in front of the shop and the old folks’ home and Andrew asked if he could help but I only had one shovel.

“He didn’t have much of a life and that’s sad.”

Police Scotland Assistant Chief Constable Nelson Telfer said the force had made “significant changes and improvements” since Mr Bow’s death.

“Even after the passage of time, our thoughts remain with Andrew’s family and friends,” Mr Telfer said.

“We do, however, note the recommendations within the Pirc report and acknowledge the fact that there were some shortcomings in relation to the events that led to Andrew’s death in March 2016. We would like to offer our sincere apologies to Andrew’s family and friends for that.

“We must learn from these findings to further improve our call handling and management and deployment of local 
policing resources.”