PIRC report: Officers ‘tried in vain’ to calm down double killer before he jumped to his death

Officers showed a “high degree of professionalism” in their response to a man who admitted attacking two people before throwing himself off a 12th-floor balcony, an investigation has revealed.

Dec 7, 2017

Officers showed a “high degree of professionalism” in their response to a man who admitted attacking two people before throwing himself off a 12th-floor balcony, an investigation has revealed. Four Police Scotland officers found Hugh Gallacher, 56, standing on the balcony with apparently blood-stained hands when they were called to an Aberdeen tower block in July last year after a woman was heard screaming. The officers discovered Keith Taylor, 43, lying on a sofa in the living room. He had been stabbed and there was blood on his chest and face. They saw Mr Gallacher in an agitated state on the balcony. He shouted to the officers that he was responsible for inflicting the injuries to Mr Taylor and Tracy Gabriel, 41, the resident of the flat. She was subsequently found on the balcony with stab wounds to her chest. Two of the officers carried out cardiopulmonary resuscitation on Mr Taylor while the other two tried to calm Mr Gallacher and persuade him, over a three to four-minute period, to come back inside. However, Mr Gallacher pointed to where a Ms Gabriel lay on the balcony and indicated he planned to jump, explaining that if he came back inside the flat he would be arrested. He then told officers “If they`re dead, I`m joining them”, slammed the balcony window shut with such force that it jammed the window closed and jumped to his death. The force treated the deaths of Mr Taylor and Ms Gabriel as murder. The incident was referred to the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (PIRC) by the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service for investigation. The inquiry focused on the circumstances surrounding the death of Mr Gallacher and in particular the interaction and conversation between him and the officers before his death. Commissioner Kate Frame’s report concludes that the call to the force 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.” As part of their enquiries, PIRC investigators interviewed and obtained statements from members of the public, police officers and staff. They also examined police statements, Command and Control logs, police reports, telephone and radio communications recordings, briefing papers, photographs and Police Standard Operating Procedures. The Commissioner found that a sofa was positioned in front of the balcony door, preventing immediate access to the balcony. The officers endeavoured over a three-minute period to engage with Mr Gallacher through an open window, tried to calm him and attempted to persuade him to move from the balcony back into the flat, she said. Residents of the flats who witnessed the incident, state that there was no physical contact between the officers and Mr 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 officers were calmly trying to diffuse the situation. North east divisional commander Chief Superintendent Campbell Thomson 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.”

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