Misconduct notice served on officer over handling of missing person reports prior to fatal collision

A Gwent Police officer faces a misconduct investigation into their handling of missing person reports prior to the discovery of a vehicle in which three people had died and two seriously injured following a collision.

Jun 16, 2023
By Paul Jacques

Eve Smith and Darcy Ross, both 21, and Rafel Jeanne, 24, were found dead at the scene of the incident on the A48 in the St Mellons area of Cardiff, South Wales, in March, almost two days after they were all last seen.

Sophie Russon, 20, and Shane Loughlin, 32, who were seriously injured, were also found with the Volkswagen Tiguan they had been travelling in.

The car was discovered just after midnight on Monday March 6, 46 hours after the last contact from, or sighting of, the group.

The families of the three young women had all reported them missing on the evening of Saturday March 4.

Both Gwent Police and South Wales Police referred themselves to the IOPC over their respective handlings of the case.

The IOPC said its investigation has been examining the actions and decisions of the police officers and control room staff dealing with the missing person reports, up to the discovery of the vehicle and the five missing persons, and whether they were appropriately risk-assessed, reviewed and resourced.

The IOPC said: “We are gathering statements from relevant police personnel involved, including officers who attended the collision scene, those who took the missing person reports, control room staff, and officers who reviewed and determined the risk assessment gradings for the reports.

“We are reviewing internal communication between the police officers and staff identified as being involved, along with CCTV from relevant police stations.

“We are speaking to the National Police Air Service about the involvement of a police helicopter during the search.

“We are considering the missing person policies of both Gwent Police and South Wales Police, along with relevant national police guidance.

“Investigators have met with the families to understand the contact they had with police and the situation they encountered at the collision scene.”

The IOPC added: “Based on the evidence we have reviewed so far, we have served a notice at the level of misconduct on a Gwent Police officer concerning their review of the missing persons’ logs and relevant risk assessments.

“We are also considering whether the age of the missing persons impacted on the officer’s decision making. Such notices advise an officer they are subject to investigation and are kept under review. They do not necessarily mean that any disciplinary proceedings will follow.”

IOPC Director David Ford said “Our thoughts and sympathies remain with the families and friends of those who tragically lost their lives and to those who were left seriously injured by this incident.

“We know that the awful events which unfolded across the weekend in early March have impacted many in the local community.

“Our investigators have met with all the families involved and we are in contact with them on a regular basis, to keep them updated on the progress of our investigation.

“IOPC staff have also met with a number of local community leaders and elected officials, to explain our role and the scope of our investigation.

“We have gathered a significant amount of evidence since our investigation began and we will ensure that our investigation continues to be thorough and timely.

“While we are investigating an officer for potential misconduct, it is only at the end of our investigation once we have established all the facts that we will make a decision as to whether the officer has any case to answer.”

Gwent Police Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hobrough said: “Our thoughts remain with the family and friends of Darcy, Eve and Rafel who tragically lost their lives that night, as well as Sophie and Shane and their loved ones.

“We understand how vital the findings of this investigation will be to the individuals and families affected by this event, and to the wider community.

“The IOPC has led this investigation, and we’re grateful for their prompt and thorough response to such a complex matter with this latest update.

“We will continue to cooperate with their investigation in an open and transparent manner.”

The IOPC said its ongoing investigation is examining both Gwent and South Wales Police’s response to the missing person reports made between Saturday March 4 and Sunday March 5. This also includes:

  • Whether police action was in accordance with the relevant legislation and local and national guidance, policies and procedures regarding missing persons; and
  • The contact and communication between the police and the families of the deceased and injured missing persons before the vehicle was discovered.

The investigation will also aim to establish whether the actions or inactions of the two police forces contributed to the deaths and serious injuries sustained in the incident, said the IOPC.

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