Neighbour found dead in Edinburgh flat after “cry wolf” 999 call

A MAN was found dead in a Capital flat after the police response was botched because a controller thought the caller was wasting officers’ time, a watchdog has found.

The controller felt the neighbour making the call had previously abused the emergency system to report “trivial” matters she considered not warranting police action.

Polcie stock image. Picture: John Devlin

Polcie stock image. Picture: John Devlin

So she failed to pass accurate and relevant information to officers following a report of a disturbance in March where a 51-year-old man was later found dead.

“When the controller sent officers to deal with the disturbance she wrongly told them the incident was in the street and possibly involved a woman being attacked,” reads the report by the Police Investigations & Review Commissioner (PIRC).

“When they arrived, they carried out a general search of the area and found no disturbance.

“As a result, the officers did not go to either the flat, where the 51-year-old man’s body was found, or speak to the man who had made the 999 call.

“They subsequently updated the ACR that no disturbance was taking place in the street.”

The PIRC report concluded the controller at Bilston Glen Area Control Room (ACR) was “dismissive” of the neighbour who made the emergency call.

He dialled 999 late on the evening of March 24 this year to report that he could hear banging, shouting and raised voices coming from a nearby flat.

The worried neighbour added that on a previous occasion there had been a fight inside the flat which had resulted in a female being attacked.

A 51-year-old’s body was found in the flat the following day. A post-mortem examination found the man died from a combination of drugs in his system.

Police referred the case to PIRC and an investigation launched to look at how the call was dealt with and whether subsequent police actions may have contributed towards the man’s death.

“The report found that had the ACR controller taken the 999 call more seriously she should have sent the officers to the disturbance in the flat rather than the street,” said a PIRC spokeswoman.

“This would have allowed officers to establish the wellbeing of the man, later found dead.”

The report recommended that the ACR controller should be reminded to deal with all calls professionally and to accurately pass on relevant information to officers sent to incidents.

And officers attending calls, where the name and details of the person making the report is available, should speak to the person, where appropriate, to clarify the information provided.

They should also ensure they carry out an effective investigation, unless the person states they do not wish to be contacted.

Contact Command and Control Divisional Commander, Chief Superintendent Roddy Newbigging said: “We accept the findings of the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner and will respond to the recommendations in due course.

“Police Scotland carried out our own internal review following the incident and necessary steps have already been taken to address issues raised in the Commissioner’s report.

“We will also direct controllers to remind officers of their responsibility to contact named reporters where appropriate.”

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