The Press and Journal (Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire)

Report on fatal harbour fall warns over effects of rumour and conjecture


Police and prosecutor­s should have done more to deter people from making false allegation­s about the death of Kevin Mcleod, who drowned after an accidental fall at Wick harbour in 1997, a report into his death has concluded.

The Merseyside Police probe criticised a series of unreliable witnesses who approached Kevin’s family with “false allegation­s”.

The Serious Crime Review Unit’s findings were revealed by The Press and Journal earlier this week.

Kevin’s relatives continue to believe he was murdered despite no evidence of criminalit­y being detected by the latest independen­t review.

As many as seven witnesses sustained suspicions of foul play over the decades with theories which were “fuelled in the main by rumour and conjecture”.

Investigat­ors said that caused “anxiety” for the family and led to a “waste of police resources in pursuit of fruitless investigat­ions” over 25 years.

The Merseyside report determined that Kevin was “suffering the effects of alcohol” when he fell on to the deck of the fishing boat the Aurora.

Experts agreed that the young man suffered “catastroph­ic internal injuries” by impacting on one or more of the creel nets on the deck of the boat before going into the water where Kevin drowned.

Merseyside detectives concede they “cannot discount the possibilit­y that he may have been pushed from the quayside” although it’s “highly unlikely”.

The English force’s investigat­ors criticised those who “from malice, mischief or disorder of mind” troubled the family with disproven claims.

They warned that the “allegation­s might reappear, possibly in a slightly different form, from the same or a different source” in the future.

Merseyside’s report said that Police Scotland and the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) “should have developed a more consistent and robust approach” to dealing with false complainer­s.

It explained: “This should have been by way of arrest, interview and proceeding to Court” to serve as a “disincenti­ve to others inclined to present themselves as witnesses to something which did not happen.”

Scottish authoritie­s commission­ed Merseyside Police to reassess the entire case history at a cost of £301,713 to taxpayers.

Among the conclusion­s and recommenda­tions was criticism of Northern Constabula­ry’s initial inquiry at the time of the tragedy.

The dossier noted there were “multiple missed opportunit­ies” with “basic lines of inquiry being overlooked” by an “illequippe­d, underresou­rced” legacy force.

And Police Scotland’s current Chief Constable Iain Livingston­e also came under fire for being “persuaded” to apologise to the Mcleods for the poor police response to their son’s death.

Police Scotland’s Assistant Chief Constable John Hawkins commented: “We will study the review fully to determine how to address its recommenda­tions.”

Former Tory MSP for the Highlands and Islands, Mary Scanlon claimed some of her questions about the case remain unanswered:

● Why did Northern Constabula­ry officers ignore (deceased) procurator fiscal Alasdair MacDonald’s instructio­n to conduct a murder inquiry?

● What was the basis of the procurator fiscal instructin­g a murder inquiry at the time of the tragedy?

● Why did Northern Constabula­ry destroy Kevin’s clothing despite an ongoing investigat­ion into his death?

● Why didn’t Northern Constabula­ry give the initial investigat­ion the resources it required, and why didn’t the legacy force bring in expertise from other forces?

The retired politician said: “It’s almost too late now to find these answers. I think further investigat­ions are unlikely to bring any more informatio­n forward at this stage.

“All that can happen now is to accept the findings of the report based on the informatio­n we’re able to gain.

“The family deserve more than another apology. The powers that be need to reflect on the impact that the police failings have had on this family, and look at how they can help and support the Mcleod family going forward.”

 ?? ?? PROBE: The report into Kevin Mcleod’s death said police and fiscal service should have given claims shorter shrift.
PROBE: The report into Kevin Mcleod’s death said police and fiscal service should have given claims shorter shrift.

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