An investigation has been launched after an elderly stroke victim spent 21 hours locked in a public toilet as police dogs and helicopter crews mounted a major search for her.
Seventy-eight year-old Norma Webster was found unconscious having spent a night seriously unwell locked inside the council-run conveniences.
Concerned family members had raised the alarm hours earlier after she failed to return from a trip to the shops.
As police carried out searches of family property she was lying on the public toilet’s floor unable to call for help after suffering a stroke.
Now relatives are demanding answers as to why the toilets were not checked before they were locked up for the night.
Mrs Webster’s son, Martin McDonald, 46, also said that the family feel they were initially placed under suspicion of being complicit in her disappearance.
And Mr McDonald’s wife Raquel, 47, said that the only blessing was that her mother-in-law could not remember her ordeal.
She said: “The council uses volunteers to close the toilets and the person who went this time didn’t check inside first before locking up.
“My mother-in-law had gone into the toilet and collapsed in one of the cubicles.
“We were told that the cleaner in the morning found her. She was found lying against the door and the cleaner heard a noise but she couldn’t talk because she had suffered a stroke.
“She was in the toilet for 21 hours or something like that.”
Mrs McDonald added: “It’s lucky she had a fleece on. It would have been horrific to think if this had happened in winter and she had to spend all night there.”
Mrs Webster was reported missing by her concerned husband James, 84, at about 5pm on 31 July when she failed to return from the shops in Forres, Moray.
And as fears for her safety grew, a helicopter and police sniffer dogs were drafted in, while officers searched property belonging to relatives.
This included Mr and Mrs McDonald’s own home in Elgin, more than ten miles away.
In the end, Mrs Webster was found just 200 yards from the spot where she was last seen on CCTV going into the Co-op in Forres about 10:30am on the day she disappeared.
Moray Council is now investigating the matter.
A spokesman said: “The council can only apologise most sincerely to Mrs Webster and her family for what must have been a distressing ordeal for all of them.”