Police officer took photo of partially-clothed woman's dead body and sent it on WhatsApp

The officer said he felt "instant regret" after sharing the photo
The officer said he felt "instant regret" after sharing the photo Credit: PA

A Somerset police officer has been sacked after taking a photo of a partially-clothed dead body on his personal phone and sharing it via WhatsApp.

PC Daniel Wallwork, who was based in Radstock, was sent to a report of a sudden death in the town in April 2020.

The Avon and Somerset Police officer took a picture of the body on his personal phone of a 42-year-old woman lying face down on her bed.

Mr Wallwork sent the image to his colleague PC Steve Carey via WhatsApp with accompanying text saying: "After all these years I’ve finally met [her]."

He also said “look who’s turned up dead" and claimed he was informing his colleague after recently discussing the woman's welfare.

Representing Avon and Somerset Police at an accelerated virtual hearing on January 12, barrister Mark Ley-Morgan said: “There is incontrovertible evidence the officer has grossly misconducted himself.

"It’s in the public interest the officer should cease to be a member of the police service without delay.

"By taking and sharing that photograph the officer is guilty of a serious failure to act with integrity. It’s not a minor lapse.

"He has abused his position as a police officer. His behaviour undoubtedly brings discredit on the police service."

Mr Ley-Morgan said there have been "numerous cases" of officers posting photos they have taken while on duty, adding: "This sort of behaviour is totally unacceptable. It does serious harm.

"A message needs to go out. Police officers need to understand if they engage in this sort of behaviour they are likely to face the most serious outcome."

Mr Wallwork, a 40-year-old father-of-two, said he had previously met the woman in Midsomer Norton while she was intoxicated.

He told the virtual hearing: “I was trying to communicate a sad coincidence to a colleague. I didn’t need to take a photograph and I accept that.

"I chose the wrong method of communication. I had a feeling I had invaded her privacy immediately."

Mr Wallwork said he felt "instant regret" but chose not to apologise immediately because he “had already completed the action” and said his priority was “to complete my job."

He added: “I thought what was done was done and next time I saw Steve I would apologise to him."

Mr Wallwork served in the Army and as a prison officer before joining the police in 2014.

Representing him, Mark Loker from the Police Federation said: “He has completed 24 years of public service. This isn’t an officer who doesn’t take his duties and responsibilities seriously.

“He accepts he hasn’t acted with integrity and that his behaviour fell below the standard expected. He doesn’t believe he has done something that would undermine public confidence in the police.

“There’s a public interest in retaining officers who have gained experience. There’s a responsibility to the public purse.

“Training officers isn’t cheap. To lose someone with seven years’ experience would be harmful to the service delivery of the constabulary."

Avon and Somerset Police chief constable Sarah Crew, chairing her first misconduct hearing since taking over the role, did not believe PC Wallwork had instantly regretted his actions and ruled he should be dismissed without notice.

She said: “There was a conscious and deliberate act on the part of PC Wallwork in taking and sending the photograph of the deceased.

"He failed to treat a woman he knew to be vulnerable with respect, dignity or courtesy in the moment of her death when she was at her most vulnerable, partially clothed and exposed to his view.

"This would undoubtedly have caused upset and distress to her family and those that loved her.

"Such conduct will always have the potential to undermine the confidence of the public. Now the facts are in the public domain I believe they have done so."

Credit: Stephen Sumner (Local Democracy Reporting Service)