Police failures in suicide case

Police failures have been highlighted. Picture: Ian Georgeson

Police failures have been highlighted. Picture: Ian Georgeson

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An independent investigation has uncovered shortcomings by the police in dealing with the disappearance and subsequent suicide of a 36-year-old woman in Edinburgh.

In a report published today Professor John McNeill, the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner, makes six separate recommendations to the Chief Constable of Police Scotland.

These range from calling for an investigation into the actions of the police officers dealing with the missing person enquiry, to a recommendation that the Police Scotland Mental Health and Place of Safety standard operating procedure (SOP) is updated to provide additional guidance to officers dealing with persons reported to be suicidal.

The investigation focused on the actions and decisions of control room staff and the officers who had contact with the woman and her family over the two-day period in June this year

However in his report the Commissioner records that the family of the woman were aware of additional information regarding the woman’s intentions but did not make the police aware of this due to ongoing family matters. His report states that the provision of this information may have allowed the police to reappraise its earlier decisions.

On the evening of Saturday June 29 the woman’s estranged husband contacted Police Scotland expressing concern for his wife’s deteriorating mental health believing that she again appeared suicidal. The woman had previously attempted suicide.

Police officers went to the woman’s home in Edinburgh however, after interviewing the woman and her 16-year-old son, officers concluded that the call appeared to be malicious. Later that evening the woman left her home and was not seen alive again.

The following day, a suicide note from the woman was found at her home and Police Scotland began a missing person enquiry. At that time officers did not seize the note, reporting to their line manager that it contained nothing obvious about suicidal tendencies and that it could have been fabricated. This, and a failure to obtain other critical information, meant that the missing person enquiry was not immediately given a high priority grading.

The enquiry ended when the woman’s body was found on the evening of June 30 by a man walking his dog within the Clermiston Woods area of Edinburgh.