Family's anger at Gormley over death review

Former chief constable Phil Gormley has defended his handling of a review into the unexplained death of a man more than 20 years ago.
Picture: TSPLPicture: TSPL
Picture: TSPL

The family of Kevin Mcleod, whose body was recovered from Wick harbour in 1997, are angry that Mr Gormley failed to instruct his officers to examine why Northern Constabulary did not treat the case as murder, ignoring an instruction from prosecutors.

Mr Gormley said he had acted in “good faith throughout,” but said he recognised the family are “understandably struggling to cope with their grief and sense of injustice”.

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Last year Police Scotland admitted Northern Constabulary had failed to treat Mr Mcleod’s death as murder, despite an instruction from the local procurator fiscal. The 24-year-old electrician had massive internal injuries said to be consistent with being kicked several hours prior to his drowning.

The Mcleod family lodged a complaint after a review of the case initiated by Mr Gormley failed to address the specific issue of why Northern Constabulary had failed to investigate the death as a murder.

According to a letter sent to the family by the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) earlier this week, Lyn Ross, at that time a temporary chief inspector, passed on concerns from the Mcleods about the Northern Constabulary investigation to Mr Gormley. However, the former chief constable said he had “no recollection” of that happening.

In a response to the SPA, which has been seen by The Scotsman, Mr Gormley said: “I always endeavoured to provide the Mcleod family with as complete a response to their concerns as possible.

“I acted in good faith throughout, as demonstrated by my instructions to Detective Chief Superintendent [Gareth] Blair to review the case and Detective Chief Superintendent Alan Speirs to examine the complaints the family had regarding the police handling of these matters.”

In further correspondence with the SPA, he added: “I took the Mcleods’ concerns with the utmost seriousness and commissioned the necessary actions to address them.

“I recognise that this did not produce the outcome the family were hoping for, a family understandably struggling to cope with their grief and sense of injustice.”

Allan Mcleod, Kevin’s uncle, said: “Chief Constable Gormley betrayed our family by not following up on his promise to Kevin’s mother, June, during a live radio phone-in in ­January last year to examine the circumstances surrounding Kevin’s un-investigated murder.”