The family of a cyclist who froze to death after police were alerted to the fact she had fallen off her bike but did not get out of their car to look for her have won compensation from Humberside Police.
Two PCSOs from the force stopped searching for Jacqueline Parsons after less than 10 minutes despite a call being received to tell police that she was in distress.
Ms Parsons, aged 56, had fallen from her bike as she rode through Western Cemetery in Hull, East Yorkshire in October 2018.
A passer-by, who did not have a mobile phone on him, called police once he got home, worried that the stricken cyclist would be locked in the cemetery overnight.
But the two PCSOs who turned up to investigate did not even bother getting out of their car and departed the scene after a few minutes.
Ms Parsons’ body was found by a dog walker the next morning.
Her family sued the force, which has now reached an out-of-court settlement, for breaching its duty of care.
The civil action was brought by her brother Stephen, who said: “Still to this day I can’t come to terms with the fact that Jacqueline would still be here if the police had just done their jobs and done a proper search of the area.
“If they’d just got out of their car and walked around it is likely she’d have been found.
“I remember it was a cold and wet day and I have always wondered how much that influenced what happened. To think of her left there alone is heartbreaking,” he said.
Police were alerted to the incident, prioritised as “urgent,” at approximately 1645 hours on 27 October 2018.
But lawyers acting on behalf of Ms Parsons’ family said that it was not until 1820 that the PCSOs were despatched, and that the incident was treated as concerning someone who was under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Ms Parsons’ brother added: “I remember it was a cold and wet day and I have always wondered how much that influenced what happened.
“I think from the moment the call was logged, and she was described as being intoxicated, there was a dismissive approach from all involved. The alcohol levels suggest she wasn’t excessively drunk as she was only just over the legal drink-drive limit.“The references to her being intoxicated annoyed those close to us. She would not have been drunk. She was someone who was always well dressed and had an immaculate home.
“To not get out of the car and to leave after around 10 minutes, having simply driven round and shone a couple of torches, was appalling. I had to take legal action as when things like this happen, changes need to be made to ensure it never happens again. Hopefully people who have gone missing since have been afforded a bit more commitment.”
Adam Biglin, of the Civil Liberties department at Hudgell Solicitors, which acted for the family, said: “This was a wholly inadequate search in terms of both approach and attitude.
“I think if anyone was to have a loved one go missing at any stage they’d believe a search of this nature to be insulting.
“The police failed to do their job of investigating and instead made a number of assumptions. These assumptions, and failings to follow proper procedures, proved fatal.
“The method of searching was not to the proper standard. At no point did the officers leave their police vehicle and they used torches that were not powerful enough to carry out a proper search. Nor did they make any attempt to check that Jacqueline had retuned home safe, given that they had been provided with her name and address by the man who called to report that she needed help.
“It has been heartbreaking for her loved ones to know that she was left to die alone when she could so easily have been found and saved.
“We are pleased that Humberside Police agreed to settle the civil action pursued on behalf of those who have lost Jacqueline from their lives.”
Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.