Friday, July 01, 2016

British police who failed to find body of missing man for nearly four months admit they relied on Google Earth to look for him

Police officers who took three-and-a-half months to find the body of a missing man were slammed by a coroner after it was revealed they used Google Earth to search for him.

Ricky Hill was reported missing from Royal Derby Hospital, in the East Midlands, the day after he was admitted for taking an overdose following the break-up of his marriage.

A huge search of the local area was conducted to find the 30-year-old in September 2014, but it was nearly four months before his body was found hanged in January 2015, just yards away from the hospital.

Yesterday Sergeant Michael Smith-Beard, a police officer assigned to find Mr Hill, gave evidence at Derbyshire Coroner's Court and admitted using a Google Earth map to conduct the search.

He added that police did not contact the hospital security team to say what they were doing.

Dr Robert Hunter, senior coroner for Derbyshire, expressed his dismay and said: 'I have been in my house for three years and Google maps show it is a field.'

The coroner said if officers had used the hospital map they would have been provided with more detail and a better chance of finding Mr Hill.

Sgt Smith-Beard, of Derbyshire Police, also admitted he was 'very disappointed' his team did not search woodland where Mr Hill's body was eventually found.

He said: 'In our world we're looking for a dead body. I had four officers with me and I sent two in a clock-wise direction and two in an anti-clockwise direction.'

When asked by Dr Hunter if he knew Mr Hill was suicidal, Sgt Smith-Beard said: 'I did not need to know all of the circumstances. In our world we're searching for a body.

'In the beauty of hindsight, I would have done it now. We did not go in there. We should have. He should have been found the best part of three months before.'

He told the court 'procedures were now in place' to 'prevent this kind of disappointment' in future.

Detective Chief Inspector Gareth Meadows said there were eight recommendations the force were now acting on as a result of a review into handling missing people cases.

But as DCI Meadows began reading the details of the recommendations, he was stopped by Dr Hunter, who said: 'What the hell does this mean? We will be here until 6pm if we go through this.'

He told the senior officer he wanted the recommendations presented in a way in which the public would be able to understand.

Earlier this week, the inquest heard Mr Hill went missing from the hospital after being allowed to go outside for a cigarette.

Dr Hunter said Mr Hill might not have been let out if he had undergone an earlier risk assessment and had a care plan.

The hearing was told Mr Hill was depressed after he split from his wife of eight years, Dawn, who told the court she had begged hospital staff not to discharge him following his overdose.

Family members, including his father Steven, said they had also raised concerns for his well-being with hospital staff.

Original report here

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