POLICE took almost ten weeks to investigate a finding of fresh blood in their hunt for missing American tourist Susan McLean.
They received a call days after her disappearance, from a local pet owner whose dog returned from a walk with fresh blood on her coat.
But detectives only collected the dogs collar and blanket last week. They have now been sent for DNA testing to see if the blood is Susans.
News of the apparent blunder is a further blow to Police Scotland, still reeling from the delay in responding to the fatal M9 crash, in which Lamara Bell and John Yuill, lay undiscovered for three days.
Last night Fife MSP Alex Rowley warned the public are losing confidence in the national police service.
Susan McLean disappeared from her holiday lodge in Aberfeldy on 17 May.
Less than two days later, a dog walker on the Loch Hoil trail, on the outskirts of Aberfeldy, found fresh blood on her pets paws and head and reported it within 24 hours.
While officers searched the area at the time, they failed to immediately test the blood found on the dog to determine if it was human.
Detectives investigating the case finally collected the dogs bloody collar and blanket on Thursday night (23 July), almost 10 weeks after Susan was last seen.
The dogs owner also discovered a lip balm, which friends believe could possibly belong to the mother-of-two.
The items will now undergo full DNA testing to establish if there is a link to Susan.
A friend of the McLean family, Lorna VanderZanden, who has travelled to the UK to reignite the search, said she was very disappointed that action had not been taken sooner.
She likened the case to that of Lamara Bell and John Yuill, who died after a report of their car crash on the M9 went uninvestigated for three days.
She said: “There was a recent case where it took Police Scotland three days to respond to the report of a car gone off the road.
“We wonder if these incidents are a trend within Police Scotland. Perhaps they would like to explain these blunders, and possibly apologize to the grieving and bereft families for their shortcomings.”
She added: “Family and friends are saddened and disappointed with Police Scotland for failing to fully investigate two potential early leads in Susans case.
“We just dont understand how such serious gaps could have occurred within the ranks of Police Scotland.
“We do believe that CID is now on top of it, ten weeks after the two leads were discovered and reported to police.”
A spokeswoman for Police Scotland said they were not aware of the existence of the collar and blanket.
“Police Scotland received a call from a dog walker on May 20 indicating that her dog had blood on it after walking through woods the previous day.
“As the highest priority was to locate Susan McLean officers immediately attended the area and conducted a thorough search which did not provide any further information about her whereabouts.
“Nine weeks later we received a report from the same dog owner suggesting that her dogs collar and blanket had traces of blood on it.
“Officers immediately seized the collar and blanket and these have been sent for forensic examination as part of the ongoing investigation.”
A Fife MSP said Susan McLeans case added weight to his calls for a review of Police Scotland.
Labour’s Alex Rowley expressed his sympathies towards the McLean family for their ordeal and made a further call for a probe into the operation of the single Scottish service.
He said had officers properly followed up the dog walkers report they would have quickly realised the dog was wearing a collar which was covered in blood.
He said: “This is another example where the public are losing confidence in the way that matters have been followed up.
“It seems to me its part of a wider problem that seems to exist within Police Scotland, where at an organisational level there seems to be major flaws.
“That’s why its crucial that we have a review of how Police Scotland is operating.
“Pulling together all these different forces was always going to be a major task, and that should be recognised, but there are far too many concerns being expressed, whether its delays in following up the public’s reports or whether its the call centres.
“We are also hearing about how the police is organised, with police officers having to travel miles and almost cross over into other policing areas.
The whole question of how the police service is being run and organised is leaving the public with major concerns and this is just another example that highlights that we need a review of exactly how Police Scotland is operating.”