Police took too long to find woman say investigators

By Connie Osborne Friday 28 February 2014 Updated: 03/03 13:11

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A REDDITCH woman was found dead after police took too long to search for her, an investigation has found.

Louise Jones’ body was discovered by officers at Rodway common in Bristol on March 30 last year.

On the day of her death, the 20-year-old was reported missing by her mother at 1.58am and less than half-an-hour later West Mercia Police discovered Louise’s car had passed Junction 19 of the M32 two hours earlier.

Officers contacted Avon and Somerset Police minutes later and told the control room she was a ‘high risk missing person’ because she had previously tried to take her life in Bristol a month earlier.

They also informed the operator to tell officers to check if Louise was in the same spot she had been found before.

But the call was logged incorrectly as ‘assisting other services’ and was graded as a ‘priority’ response meaning officers would be dispatched within an hour.

At 3.30am Miss Jones contacted Avon and Somerset Police to say she wanted to take her own life, but at this time a search for her and her vehicle had not gone out over the police radio.

Although the operator correctly graded this incident as an ‘immediate’ response and officers were dispatched within seven minutes, four hours later she was found dead at the same spot where she had previously tried to take her own life.

An investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission revealed the incident was incorrectly categorised as a request by another force rather than a high risk missing person.

Not all information was properly recorded and the request failed to be brought to the attention of the force incident manager, duty sergeant or duty inspector.

Evidence showed although the force was dealing with two other ‘immediate’ calls, if the appropriate action was taken by the caller handers she may have been found earlier.

A total of four members of staff faced internal misconduct proceedings, with two receiving words of advice.

Guido Liguori, IPCC associate commissioner, said: “My heart-felt sympathies go to Louise’s family and friends for the tragic loss they have suffered following this young woman’s death.

“Our investigation found that errors made by Avon and Somerset call handlers meant there was not an immediate police response and an opportunity to start the search for Louise sooner was lost.”

After the death of Louise Jones the force issued guidance to call handlers so in future such calls should be categorised as missing person reports.

An inquest in Bristol finished on Friday 21 February and returned a narrative verdict.

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