A senior police officer has made an “unreserved apology” for failures in the investigation of a man’s death more than 20 years ago.
The body of Kevin Mcleod, 24, was recovered from Wick harbour in 1997 and there remains insufficient evidence to establish whether the death was criminal or accidental.
Deputy Chief Constable Iain Livingstone met Mr Mcleod’s parents yesterday to apologise for what he said were “serious failings” in the initial investigation which meant the opportunity to gather vital evidence was missed.
Mr Livingstone said the Mcleod family had been treated in an “dismissive” manner by the now defunct Northern Constabulary when raising concerns about the handling of the case.
Mr Mcleod, an electrician, was last seen in the early hours of February 8 as he enjoyed a night out with friends.
His death was treated as accidental, but his family believed he had been murdered.
Following a private meeting with Hugh and June Mcleod in Wick, Mr Livingstone said: “I have today met with Mr and Mrs Mcleod to personally apologise for the policing response to their son Kevin’s death in 1997.
“The tragic events leading to the recovery of Kevin’s body from Wick harbour left Mr and Mrs Mcleod with a 20-year search for answers.
“I can only imagine the pain and trauma their family has suffered and I have nothing but the highest admiration for their strength and determination in seeking those answers.”
Mr Livingstone, who is currently leading Police Scotland, said a number of investigations had substantiated the family’s belief there were failings on the part of Northern Constabulary in the force’s handling of the case.
In 2007, the Police Complaints Commissioner for Scotland said Northern Constabulary had behaved with “institutional arrogance” in the way it handled complaints from the Mcleod family.
Earlier this year, Police Scotland said its specialist crime division was assessing information relating to Mr Mcleod’s death.
Mr Livingstone said: “Legacy policing services undoubtedly failed this family and I am further disappointed that their complaints were treated in a dismissive manner in the years which followed Kevin’s death.
“During a recent comprehensive reassessment of this case Police Scotland has come to the conclusion that, because of the initial police investigation failures and based upon the evidence now available, we are unable to present any evidence which would clearly indicate the circumstances surrounding the cause of Kevin’s death, either criminally or accidentally.”
Mr Livingstone said the death remained “unexplained” and said Police Scotland would investigate any evidence which came to light.
He added: “I fully understand that such a conclusion must be difficult for Kevin’s family to accept and on behalf of the policing service I regret the pain and anguish that this has caused them over such a long period of time.
“I hope that this unreserved apology may go some way to bring some form of closure to Kevin’s family and once again on behalf of Police Scotland I apologise unreservedly for the past failings of the police services in Scotland.”