Scottish families among those 'failed' by foreign office over deaths abroad

The family ofKirsty Maxwell, who died in mysterious circumstances in Benidorm in 2017,said the family felt "abandoned" by the Foreign Office. Picture: PA
The family ofKirsty Maxwell, who died in mysterious circumstances in Benidorm in 2017,said the family felt "abandoned" by the Foreign Office. Picture: PA
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Several Scottish families were among over 60 families who claimed they were failed by the Foreign Office following a death abroad, a parliamentary report has revealed.

A new parliamentary report has shown that dozens of families who lost someone close to them abroad felt failed by the Foreign Office (FCO).

The Deaths Abroad, Consular Services and Assistance report spoke with over 60 families who had lost a member of their family abroad.

The family of Kirsty Maxwell, who died in mysterious circumstances in Benidorm in 2017, said the family felt "abandoned" by the Foreign Office in the days that followed.

Ms Maxwell, from Livingston, fell to her death from a balcony during a hen party weekend with friends.

In April 2017, the 27-year-old fell from the 10th floor balcony of a room where five men, who were arrested but never charged, were staying.

Her father, Brian Curry, said he and his wife received little information from the authorities about what had happened and described how he and his wife took the first flight to Spain they could after a phone call to the family from a Spanish official in "broken English".

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He told the BBC they once they eventually met someone from the FCO, nothing was done: "There didn't seem to be a procedure, in fact there was no procedure. Everyone seemed to be winging things."

Scottish Government minister Clare Haughey MSP and her husband Paul also spoke to the enquiry, and described the FCO as "worse than useless" following the death of their 20-year-old son, Charlie, who died whilst on holiday in the Netherlands in July.

Mr Haughey told the cross-party group: "The FCO was worse than useless and I say worse because it added stress and worry to the already existing traumatic experience.

"This was in stark contrast to the Amsterdam police who had clearly had 'trauma-informed' training using simple language and repeating what we needed to know."

Report Recommendations

The Deaths Abroad, Consular Services and Assistance report consulted with over 60 families and third-sector organisations.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) was created by SNP MP Hannah Bardell for Deaths Abroad and Consular Services after two of her Livingston constituents - including Kirsty Maxwell - died abroad.

She said: "Having listened to harrowing evidence from families, it is clear that changes must be made at the earliest opportunity. Experts have told us that these families are at risk of re-traumatisation and secondary victimization as a result of their experiences with the UK FCO.

One of the APPG's recommendations is the introduction of the 'Pearson Maxwell Protocol' - a joined-up, cross-agency process that "holds the hands of a bereaved family from the point of notification of death, through travelling to the country of death and repatriation".

The report further recommends all UK Government departments, agencies, services and third-party organisations adopt a trauma-informed approach to protect families, and that special attention must be paid to suspicious and unexplained deaths abroad.