Police praised for response to Aberdeen tower block murders

Tracy Gabriel and Keith Taylor were killed in July last year.
Tracy Gabriel and Keith Taylor were killed in July last year.
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A watchdog investigation has praised the police response to an incident where a man leapt to his death from a twelfth floor balcony after carrying out a double murder.

Hugh Gallacher told officers: “If they’re dead, I’m joining them,” after stabbing Keith Taylor, 44, and Tracy Gabriel, 41, at Donside Court, Aberdeen in July last year.

A report published today by the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (Pirc) found that officers who attended had acted appropriately and with professionalism.

Four Police Scotland officers were called to the tower block after reports from residents that a woman had been heard screaming and a man had been seen with blood on his hands on the balcony.

On entering the flat, officers found Mr Taylor lying on the living room sofa with stab wounds. They then saw Gallacher, 56, standing on the balcony.

His hands appeared to be bloodstained and he shouted to the officers that he was responsible for inflicting the injuries to Mr Taylor and Ms Gabriel, the resident of the flat. She was later found on the balcony with stab wounds to her chest.

Two of the officers carried out CPR on Mr Taylor, while the other two officers attempted, over a three to four-minute period, to calm Gallacher and persuade him to come back inside.

But Gallacher told officers: “If they’re dead, I’m joining them.”

He then slammed the balcony window shut and jumped to his death.

The officers found Ms Gabriel on the balcony and carried out first aid on her while other officers carried out first aid on Gallacher on the ground outside the tower block.

All three died from their injuries.

The incident was referred to the Pirc by the Crown Office, with the inquiry focussing on the circumstances surrounding the death of Gallacher and in particular the interaction and conversation between him and the police before his death.

Publishing her findings, Commissioner Kate Frame said: “The call to Police Scotland was categorised correctly and officers were dispatched to the scene within the required five-minute timescale.

“It is clear that officers attempted to persuade Hugh Gallacher to come back into the flat from the balcony but had limited opportunity to prevent him from completing his stated intention of suicide.

“They were confronted with very difficult circumstances but dealt with them appropriately and with a high degree of professionalism.”

The commissioner found that a sofa was positioned in front of the balcony door, preventing immediate access to the balcony.

The officers attempted over a three-minute period to engage with Gallacher through an open window, tried to calm him and attempted to persuade him to move from the balcony back into the flat.

However, he shouted and swore, indicating that he was responsible for inflicting the injuries on Mr Taylor and Ms Gabriel before indicating his intention to jump from the balcony and saying that if he came back inside he would be arrested.

In her report, the commissioner found that Gallacher then slammed the window closed with such force that it bent the lever and jammed the window closed. He then made his way through safety netting and over the balcony at 8.40 pm.

Residents of the flats who witnessed the incident, stated that there was no physical contact between the officers and Gallacher; that no one was standing next to him when he went over the balcony; that he was screaming and shouting threats to kill himself and that the police were calmly trying to diffuse the situation.

Chief Superintendent Campbell Thomson, of Police Scotland, said: “I acknowledge the outcome of this review by the commissioner into what was a completely tragic incident that deeply affected one of our local communities.

“In common with the Pirc review, I recognise the professionalism of our officers who attended at the time and the appropriateness of their actions when faced with an extremely challenging and difficult set of circumstances.

“Our thoughts continue to be with all those families involved.”