A police officer failed to log a call from a citizen who witnessed a car crash that killed a couple that went undetected for days, an investigation finds.
A fatal accident investigation (FAI) began at Falkirk Sheriff Court on Monday into the deaths of Lamara Bell, 25, and John Yuill, 28.
The couple died after the car they were in crashed on the M9 motorway near Stirling in July 2015.
They remained stranded in their Renault Clio for three days before being discovered, despite police having previously been informed of the incident.
A joint transcript agreed by the parties was read out by the inquiry’s junior barrister, Elaine Smith.
The investigation heard that in June 2015, Sergeant Bryan Henry, who normally worked at the Dalkeith police office, volunteered for overtime at the Bilston Glen contact center in Midlothian.
He told then chief inspector Michaela Kerr that it had been a while since he had used the Storm case management system but he was “confident” that with a “quick refresher” he would be competent.
It had been agreed that he should be trained in the call handling system and if Ms Kerr was satisfied with his performance he could do the overtime.
Mr Henry started working overtime on June 11, 2015, and was working on the day John Wilson called Police Scotland on 101 to report the accident on the number 9 slip road of the M9 eastbound on the M80.
The investigation heard that Mr Wilson called 101 at 11.31am on Sunday, July 5, and reported the accident.
Mr Henry recorded the details in his police notebook, but this was not an accurate recording system but rather his own personal notes.
He conducted an internet search to find out whether the incident had already been reported and whether it had not.
Ms Smith said: “Bryan Henry did not create a Storm entry or otherwise log a call.”
“No police action was taken.”
The inquest then heard how the families of Miss Bell and Mr Yuill made missing person reports after initially checking with Police Scotland that they were not in custody.
A missing persons investigation was subsequently launched, with helicopters searching the area where Mr Yuill’s phone was last connected to a mobile phone mast near Auchterarder in Perth and Kinross.
Later in the week, after Ms Bell and Mr Yuill’s families learned of their fate, Mr Henry was asked about the accident that led to their deaths.
The investigation revealed he did not remember recording the incident on the computer system.
Mr Yuill and Miss Bell had been on a camping trip to Loch Earn with friends before their deaths.
The investigation is expected to take “a number of weeks.”
At a hearing at the High Court in Edinburgh in September 2021, Police Scotland was fined £100,000 after pleading guilty to health and safety failings which “significantly contributed to Ms Bell’s death”.
The court heard how Ms Bell pleaded for help after she was found and would likely have survived had she been rescued sooner.
The inquest heard on Monday that Ms Bell was in “significant pain” when she was found on Wednesday, July 8, 2015.
Her injuries required her to receive ketamine and general anesthesia. She later died at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital on Sunday 12 July.
Mr Yuill was pronounced dead at the scene.
Former Chief Constable of Scotland Sir Iain Livingstone apologized to the families of Mr Yuill and Ms Bell following the court case.
Similar to an investigation in England and Wales, an FAI is not a criminal investigation but is designed to establish facts rather than assign blame.
Its purpose is, among other things, to determine the cause of death and the circumstances under which the death occurred and to determine what reasonable precautions could have been taken to minimize the risk of future deaths under similar circumstances.
Procurator Fiscal Andy Shanks, who leads the death investigation for COPFS, said: “Following a thorough and detailed investigation and prosecution, this fatal accident investigation will examine the full circumstances of these tragic deaths and help prevent such an incident from occurring again. “
“The families of Lamara Bell and John Yuill and their legal representatives will continue to be kept informed as the investigation progresses.”
The investigation by Sheriff James Williamson is ongoing.
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