Police who searched for a missing Shetland man in Bo’ness failed to carry out a “full and systematic” search of his home.
Arnold Mouat’s body was discovered in his garage – a month after he was reported missing. He had died of asphyxiation.
The Police Investigations & Review Commissioner (PIRC) published its report on Tuesday. The investigation focused on why Mr Mouat, 64, had not been found by police officers during the search of his home and outbuildings on 7th July last year – the day he was reported missing.
Commissioner Kate Frame said the inadequate search by the Police Search Advisor (PolSA)-led team added to the distress and uncertainty of Mr Mouat’s family.
She said the Police Scotland building search report recorded that the search of Mr Mouat’s house, gardens, vehicle and garage was completed in 40 minutes and in particular that the search of the garage and gardens was completed within five minutes.
An internal review by Police Scotland acknowledged that a more extensive search should have been carried out.
The commissioner said procedures have since been reviewed and officers reminded of the processes to follow during missing person’s searches.
Ms Frame said: “Clearly, if the police had carried out a thorough search of the garage area, then it is highly likely that they would have discovered Mr Mouat’s body, something acknowledged by Police Scotland’s own internal review.
“In light of this case, I have made several recommendations which I have shared with the Deputy Chief Constable to enable him to put measures in place and take corrective action to prevent such failings happening again.”
Mr Mouat’s family said in a statement:”The past eight months have been incredibly difficult for our family as we have tried to come to terms with the loss of a loving father and husband.
“We are aware of the PIRC report and note that a number of recommendations have been made. Going forward we hope that Police Scotland will look carefully at these recommendations and that valuable lessons have been learned.
“As a family, we are grateful for the support we have received but we would now ask for our privacy to be respected to allow us to come to terms with our loss in peace.”
Mr Mouat was reported missing to Police Scotland on the morning of 7th July. A search of the house, garden and outbuildings was carried out by officers and the PolSA team were called in the same day to carry out a more thorough search.
PIRC said Police Scotland continued their search for Mr Mouat until his body was found on 5th August by a relative.
It said a post-mortem found the cause of death as asphyxiation and revealed that he had been dead for some time.
The PIRC report said Police Scotland’s internal review of the conduct of the search at Mr Mouat’s home concluded that, “crucially the search in the area of the garage cannot have been deemed to have been thorough and systematic, even if the remit had originally to have been only to look for the Missing Person, as all indications are that he was within the garage from day one”.