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Dumfries woman found dead after police attended wrong house

She is suspected to have died from an accidental overdose Photo: PA

An investigation into the death of a vulnerable woman in Dumfries has found police were initially sent to the wrong house.

Officers mistakenly spoke to an 84-year-old woman at the wrong address and notified the dead woman's family that she was safe.

The body of a 52-year-old woman was found the following day at her home.

The women’s daughter rang the police shortly after 10.00pm on Friday 19 February 2016, as she was concerned about her mother's safety.

A description of the woman and her address were given but police were sent to the wrong house.

She was found dead at approximately 2.40am on 20 February after officers forced entry.

This was around four and a half hours after her daughter initially phoned.

She is suspected to have died from an accidental overdose of prescribed medication.

The Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (Pirc) identified a number of failings, including with the mapping system used by the force.

They concluded it was likely the woman had already died before officers were contacted.

The police didn’t receive any details of the woman's age, physical description or that she was vulnerable.

They went to the wrong address and woke an 84-year-old woman at 10.35pm.

Police failed to notice her name was different to the woman they were looking for.

The family of the woman were told officers had spoken to her and she was safe and well.

The report raised concerns about the mapping system and "failings in the actions of both area control room staff and the attending officers".

The Police Investigations and Review Commissioner says it was "deeply troubling" that the systems issues had not been resolved and "disappointing" the officers had failed to realise the names had not matched up:

"Whilst I recognise from the medical evidence obtained in this particular case that it is likely the 52-year-old woman was dead by the time the alarm was raised, it does not diminish the particular failures identified or the additional distress caused to the woman's family."

– Kate Frame, Police Investigations and Review Commissioner

Police Scotland has apologised and say it has taken steps to address the issues raised:

Our thoughts remain with the woman's family at this time. We are sorry for the distress and upset caused by our initial response to the incident.

We acknowledge and accept the recommendations made by the Commissioner in her report and took steps last year to address the issues she has now identified.

The officers who attended the initial incident mistakenly identified another individual as being the woman. Had this mistake not been made Police Scotland would not have updated her family that she was safe and well.

Since the incident in February 2016, significant work has been undertaken to improve our Gazetteer system to ensure that address information is presented correctly on our systems.

Area Control Room and Service Centre staff undertake regular training to assist our response to incidents involving risk and vulnerability. This is ongoing for all staff.

We accept we did not get it right in this case and will continue to work to provide excellent front line policing across Scotland.”

– Nelson Telfer. Assistant Chief Constable Service and Protection, Police Scotland

The family of the woman have made this statement:

The past 18 months have placed an incredible strain on our family as we have tried to come to terms with the loss of a loving mother and understand the tragic circumstances behind her death.

We are aware of the Pirc report and are pleased to note that a number of recommendations have been made. None of this will bring our mother back but we hope that going forward Police Scotland will look carefully at these recommendations and that valuable lessons have been learned."

– Family statement