Chris Marshall: The murder case police ignored – sinister or inept?

After Kevin McLeod's body was found in Wick harbour, police ignored an instruction from the procurator fiscal to treat the case as a murder
After Kevin McLeod's body was found in Wick harbour, police ignored an instruction from the procurator fiscal to treat the case as a murder
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On the evening of 8 February, 1997, 24-year-old Kevin Mcleod said goodbye to his parents for the last time.

Hours after leaving home for a night out, his body was pulled from the icy waters of Wick harbour, his death an apparent accident.

Twenty-one years on, mystery surrounds those final hours in the young electrician’s life.

All these years later, Kevin’s parents still don’t know what happened to their son.

Kevin’s mother, June, has spoken of how she feared the worst when her boy failed to return that night; it wasn’t like Kevin not to come home, it wasn’t like Kevin not to call.

From the very start the family have disputed the police’s version of events, a position vindicated late last year when Police Scotland offered an unreserved apology for early failings in the investigation carried out by Northern Constabulary.

READ MORE: Kevin Mcleod case a ‘miscarriage of justice’

Deputy Chief Constable Iain Livingstone, currently the country’s most senior officer, met June and her husband, Hugh, in December.

He confirmed what the family had feared for years, that police officers had ignored an instruction from the local procurator fiscal to investigate Kevin’s death as murder.

The admission has brought fresh interest in a case which had receded from public view despite the tireless efforts of Kevin’s parents and his uncle Allan.

In a letter presented to the family at the time, Mr Livingstone said: “It is Police Scotland’s unequivocal position that we fully accept that an instruction was indeed given by the then procurator fiscal to treat Kevin’s death as a murder and to investigate it accordingly, a matter which Northern Constabulary at that time failed to do.”

In 2007, the Police Complaints Commissioner for Scotland found Northern Constabulary had behaved with “institutional arrogance” in the way it handled complaints from the Mcleod family.

Appearing on BBC Radio Scotland last week, local MSP Gail Ross said the way the family had been treated by police was an “absolute disgrace”.

Ms Ross, who has taken up the family’s case, said it appeared to be a miscarriage of justice, presumably in that justice has never been delivered for the family.

The Mcleods have called for an independent inquiry into why Northern Constabulary ignored the direction from prosecutors to investigate the death as a murder.

READ MORE: ‘No evidence’ police officers played role in man’s death in 1997

They believe Kevin had massive internal injuries consistent with being kicked several hours prior to his drowning.

A potential eyewitness came forward earlier this year claiming to have seen two police officers stand watching Mr Mcleod struggle in the water on the night he died.

However, detectives investigating the case have said there is no evidence police officers were involved.

The one undisputable fact so far is that the Mcleods were failed and failed badly by Northern Constabulary.

Had the death occurred now under the auspices of Police Scotland with all its investigatory expertise, the same sort of errors would not have been made in the initial stages.

More than two decades on, it’s difficult to know if the case was undermined by police inepitude or something more sinister.

Either way, the family of Kevin Mcleod are long overdue answers about what happened to their son on that winter’s night 21 years ago.