A CLAIM that a missing pensioner was still alive five days after police failed to investigate a reported sighting of her was dismissed by the general secretary of the Police Federation yesterday.
Janet McKay, who was 88 and suffering from dementia, was found dead near a busy road in Clydebank last Thursday. Yesterday it was claimed that she seen alive on Wednesday, five days after she was reported missing.
But Calum Steele, general secretary of the Police Federation, who has defended the police officer who failed to register a possible sighting two days after she disappeared, described the claims of a second sighting as “ridiculous”.
He said: “To say an 88-year-old woman with dementia was still wandering about over a week from when she was reported missing is absolutely rubbish. A post mortem examination is still to be held, but it is most likely she died soon after she disappeared.”
Police Scotland has apologised to McKay’s family after it emerged information about a possible sighting a week earlier, just two days after she was reported missing, was not passed on to the inquiry team.
The Police Investigations and Review Commissioner has announced it will hold an inquiry into the incident.
Despite Police Scotland’s admission of a blunder, McKay’s family have not apportioned any blame to the force.
Steele has defended the officer involved, claiming it “has created a firestorm when [a] simple honest explanation existed”.
He said it was a young officer with very little experience, who was “exceptionally busy” and forgot to pass on “second or third hand information”.
McKay left her home in Dykebar Avenue in the Knightswood area of Glasgow on Wednesday, 16 September. Police have admitted that a member of the public in Knightswood told them about a possible sighting of getting on a bus.
Yesterday the Daily Mail reported that another person rang police on 23 September with details about an elderly woman in Clydebank matching the description of McKay.
Janice Kelly, 52, told the newspaper: “I saw a lady matching that description wandering about ... I saw her at the bus stop.”
Justice Secretary Michael Matheson has pledged a thorough investigation into the case.
Officers acted on information of McKay getting off a bus in Glasgow Road, Clydebank, on the day of her disappearance. CCTV footage was released to the media on 23 September – one week after the pensioner was reported missing – as police focused search operations in the Clydebank area. On 24 September her body was found near Clydebank College.
Her son Gordon, 57, said: “We’ve been very happy with the way the police have dealt with it. Any wider issues are a matter for Police Scotland, but we have no criticisms to make of them.”
The latest incident follows a review of Police Scotland’s procedures following the deaths of John Yuill and Lamara Bell, who lay undiscovered next to the M9 for days despite a sighting being reported to a police control room.
Chief Constable Sir Stephen House announced last month that he will stand down earlier than expected following sustained criticism over apparent call-centre failings, and controversies over stop-and-search and armed police patrols.