POLICE failed to find a dying man for over an hour while they tended to his injured best friend in the same building – mistakenly believing he was the only victim of a frenzied knife attack.
An investigation by a neighbouring force has found that Lothian and Borders Police officers called out to a knife attack in January did not realise Billy McPhee was lying dying on the tenth floor of Castleview House high rise, in Gilmerton, because they had found his best friend, Colin Stewart, stabbed on the first floor and thought he was the only victim.
Mr McPhee eventually died in a pool of his own blood around an hour after he and his best friend were attacked by murderer William McArdle following an argument over a bar of chocolate.
Officers only realised Mr McPhee was in the building shortly after his death.
Medical evidence suggests that, if Mr McPhee had been taken to hospital earlier, he could have lived.
In a meeting with Mr McPhee’s widow Roseanne, below, senior Lothian and Borders Police officers this week admitted that there was a “huge breakdown of communication” during the police response.
The investigation shows that a number of separate emergency calls were made about both of the injured men, but Lothian and Borders Police did not realise the calls related to two people.
Two ambulances were sent to the scene, but officers assumed the victim on the tenth floor had moved down to the first floor.
Tragically, Mr McPhee had desperately tried to attract attention to himself by repeatedly pressing the emergency button on a nearby lift, but neither concierge staff nor police in the building were alerted to his situation.
Police tended to Mr Stewart minutes after the 999 calls were made at 8.47pm, but they did not discover Mr McPhee until an hour and a quarter later – minutes after he is believed to have passed away.
Lothian and Borders Police asked Strathclyde Police to carry out an independent investigation into the events of January 11 this year.
A senior officer told Mrs McPhee that it had been a “chaotic situation” and that police had “presumed the guy from the tenth floor had come down to the first”.
He added: “We cannot get this communication mix-up like this again, this is a situation of life and death here.”
Officials admitted they had made an assumption that there was only one victim because the 999 calls were made minutes apart. They also conceded that, if police officers had gone to the tenth floor, they would have found Mr McPhee. They called the response a “mistake” and a “fault” and have agreed to visit the McPhee family for further meetings.
Today, Roseanne, who has terminal cancer, demanded an apology from Lothian and Borders Police.
She said: “My husband should be here with me. Fair enough, he was not murdered by the police, but he would be here with me if they had not responded that way. Doctors have said he would still be alive if he had got to hospital sooner.
“They [the police] have owned up, they have come forward, but it still has not changed the way I feel. I can’t accept what happened, I can’t deal with it. The police have said they’ll make sure these mistakes never happen again, but it has already happened. It happened to my husband.”
A police spokesman said: “Lothian and Borders Police carried out an investigation into the murder of William McPhee at Castleview House in Edinburgh on January 11.
“Following the investigation the force requested that Strathclyde Police carry out an independent review into the police response to the incident, which has recently been concluded.
“Mr McPhee’s wife has been kept fully updated on the progress of the review and recently a senior officer, along with the family liaison officer, visited Mrs McPhee to give her a personal update.
“The findings of the review will now be fully considered by Lothian and Borders Police and a report will be sent to the deputy chief constable for his consideration.”