MP calls for fresh review of evidence in case of body in harbour

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THE Lord Advocate is being urged to authorise an independent review of evidence in a ten-year-old case involving a man found dead in a harbour.

The body of Kevin McLeod, 24, was found after a night out in Wick in February 1997. His family believe he was murdered, but Northern Constabulary maintain the death was accidental.

Ian Latimer, the force's chief constable, has ruled out a fresh review, but John Thurso, the Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross MP, has asked Elish Angiolini to consider the merits of another examination of evidence.

He said: "I have asked the Lord Advocate to look at an independent review of the evidence gathered in order to bring closure to the matter."

Two inquiries by Northern Constabulary were held which said Mr McLeod's death was accidental. A later fatal accident inquiry recorded an open verdict.

In 2002 an independent review was carried out by Andrew Cameron, the Chief Constable of Central Scotland Police, who looked into the family's complaints about the handling of the investigation.

In the same year Mr Latimer sought to draw a line under the investigation, saying there was "nowhere else to go".

A report in November by Jim Martin, Scotland's Police Complaints Commissioner, who was asked to examine the investigation, accused Northern Constabulary of "institutional arrogance" and ordered Mr Latimer to apologise to the McLeod family, who have consistently complained about the way the case was dealt with.

Mr Martin called on Mr Latimer to improve relations with family members and recommended the Northern Joint Police Board should meet them to apologise for the way the force handled their complaints.

He also criticised the McLeod family, who sent 277 letters and visited officers at their homes, for the tone of some of the complaints.

When Mr McLeod's body was found it was initially thought he had drowned, but a doctor later discovered serious abdominal injuries. A police investigation concluded that the injuries came from him falling on a bollard.

The family claims that Mr McLeod's clothes were destroyed before being forensically tested, the harbour was not cordoned off and searched for evidence, potential witnesses were not pursued and there were inadequate door-to-door inquiries.

The commissioner said Mr Latimer acknowledged that elements of the initial investigation were handled poorly and had instigated reviews of procedures.

Mr Thurso, who chaired a meeting between the chief constable and the McLeod family in December, added: "One outcome of an independent review might be that someone looks at it and says the evidence is inconclusive but it has been properly investigated. Another possibility is a recommendation to the Crown that there are further investigations to be undertaken.

"I have suggested it would be good for all concerned that a review takes place. I would expect the Lord Advocate to take some time to deliberate and consult before responding."

A Northern Constabulary spokeswoman said: "We understand that John Thurso has written to the Lord Advocate directly on this issue. We await the outcome of that with interest.

"Any correspondence with Kevin McLeod's family has and will remain confidential."