POLICE “mismanaged” an inquiry into the disappearance of a woman who later took her own life, an investigation has found.
Professor John McNeill, the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (PIRC), has made six recommendations to the chief constable of Police Scotland, including a review of guidance for officers dealing with potential suicide cases.
It comes after an independent investigation into the handling of the disappearance of the 36-year-old woman in Edinburgh earlier this year.
Her body was found by a dog walker on 30 June in the Clermiston Woods area of the city after officers dismissed concerns she was suicidal.
Police had received a call from the woman’s estranged husband the previous evening to say he was worried that his wife appeared to want to kill herself.
Officers were aware that she had recently tried to kill herself, the PIRC investigation found.
They visited the woman’s home in Edinburgh but concluded that the call was malicious after interviewing her and her 16-year-old son. She was not seen alive again after leaving her home later that evening.
A missing person inquiry was launched after a suicide note was found at her home the next day.
The PIRC investigation found the case was not immediately treated as a high priority because officers judged that the note did not contain any obvious suicidal references and could have been fabricated.
The woman’s phone was active when she was first reported missing but the battery had died by the time officers tried to trace it, thereby “hampering” the investigation, according to Professor McNeill’s report.
The report added that the missing person inquiry was “mismanaged” because it should have been given a high priority and there should not have been any delay in searching for her mobile phone.
Police officers erred in their assessment of the circumstances and this impacted upon their decision-making, which included that the call appeared to have been malicious, the PIRC report said.
It continued: “The missing person inquiry was mismanaged. The missing person inquiry should have been immediately graded a high priority.”
Among the recommendations made by Professor McNeill in his report were that the actions of all officers involved in the missing person inquiry should be investigated and that police should be given additional guidance in how to deal with people reported to be suicidal.
Police Scotland promised to review the case, investigating actions of the officers, and to see what lessons could be learnt.