Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC - formerly IPCC)
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Search guidance reviewed following investigation into police response over missing Coventry student

West Midlands Police is reviewing its guidance around the co-ordination of searches for missing people following our investigation into how the force responded to the disappearance of Coventry student Ozeivo Akerele.

Mr Akerele, aged 24, was reported missing after failing to return home from a night out with friends in Coventry city centre on 31 January 2015. His body was found more than a year later by youngsters playing on part of an overgrown churchyard at Foleshill on 21 April 2016 – close to where police had been searching.  An inquest in November 2016 recorded a verdict of misadventure. 

When West Midlands Police were contacted on 31 January they initially recorded him as absent but after several reviews changed his missing status to ‘high risk’ on 6 February. Further police work focused on his mobile and CCTV led to officers searching in Foleshill, including the area around the churchyard which was fenced off. 

Evidence gathered by our investigator suggested that the risk assessments and the reviews of them were carried out in line with policy. There was no indication that any officer or member of police staff had a case to answer for misconduct although the force agreed that one officer would benefit from a learning debrief around risk assessments.

However, the investigation found that there was some confusion around the record keeping and communication of the action taken by officers during their searches of the area where Mr Akerele’s body was eventually found. 

The force will now consider amending guidance in similar cases, to provide clarity around the tasking and accurate recording of such searches.  

IOPC Regional Commissioner Derrick Campbell said: “I would again extend my condolences to Mr Akerele’s family and everyone affected by his death.  

“During our investigation we found no evidence to confirm when Mr Akerele died and nothing to suggest police may have contributed to his death. Numerous lines of enquiry were pursued and we found the police resources deployed at various stages were over and above policy requirements.   

“Some learning in relation to the police searches was identified from our investigation, and the force’s response hopefully means that something positive will come out of this terribly sad case.” 

The IOPC’s investigation followed a referral from the force and was extended after concerns were raised by the Coroner’s Prevention of Future Deaths Report, received in July last year (2017). Our investigation concluded at the end of August this year (2018).

 

Channel website: https://policeconduct.gov.uk/

Original article link: https://policeconduct.gov.uk/news/search-guidance-reviewed-following-investigation-police-response-over-missing-coventry-student

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