Dressing-down for Scilly Sergeant in murder riddle probe
A POLICE sergeant who published memoirs about his quiet island beat has been heavily criticised over his handling of what is feared to be the first murder there in 40 years.
Sergeant Colin Taylor was condemned for his investigation into the death of Josh Clayton after he suggested using a water diviner to hunt for his missing body.
The Isles of Scilly officer also showed ‘poor judgment’ in his decision to speak to Mr Clayton’s family while they ate dinner at a pub, an internal inquiry found.
Mr Clayton, 23, a bar manager from Taunton, Somerset, was found dead on rocks near the island of Tresco in 2015 – ten days after he was seen at a staff party.
A major search took place before his fully-clothed body was discovered by a French yachtsman. His mother Tracey Clayton believes he was murdered – which would make it the first on the islands since 1976 – and raised concerns over the handling of the case.
Many of her frustrations were directed at father-of-two Sgt Taylor, who published a book about policing the ‘crime-free’ islands – The Life of a Scilly Sergeant – in 2016, less than a year after Mr Clayton’s body was found.
Now a Devon and Cornwall Police investigation has upheld 15 of Mrs Clayton’s 22 complaints, which also included Sgt Taylor’s failure to secure her son’s room – and therefore potential evidence.
The report identified six learning points for Sgt Taylor – a lower level than misconduct – six for Detective Inspector Debbie Jago and four for Devon and Cornwall Police. Mrs Clayton said she felt vindicated that someone ‘ has actually listened’ to her concerns.
The probe found Sgt Taylor displayed ‘poor judgment’ in his conversations with the family and some of what he said was ‘insensitive through its banality’. He was also criticised for talking about the inquiry in a pub – described in the report as ‘just not appropriate’.
He also ‘inappropriately’ introduced the idea of using a water diviner during the initial search.
Sgt Taylor, 52, won a huge following for his wry social media posts on his beat and described his memoirs as ‘Heartbeat but less frenetic’. Responding to the report, the officer, who returned to Devon in 2016 after five years in the job, said: ‘At all times the welfare of the Clayton family was paramount.’
Mr Clayton’s death had been treated as an accident before the first inquest was halted over issues including ‘under-resourcing’. A second inquest concluded his death was accidental and he ‘may have had a fall’ – which Mrs Clayton described as ‘pure speculation’.
The Clayton family are seeking £70,000 compensation from police for legal fees, and want to start a charity in their son’s name.
Tragedy: Bar manager Josh Clayton Inset and right: Colin Taylor and his book