Call handler’s failure to pass on all information from 999 call did not contribute to death of Andre

Published Date: 27.02.2014

A Police Ombudsman investigation has found that a police officer failed to provide police patrols with all relevant information from a 999 call, but that the failure did not contribute to the death of Lurgan man Andrew Lorimer.

Mr Lorimer’s body was found in his flat at Portlec Place in the town on 5 February 2012, two days after a 999 call was made to report an assault in the street.

The Chief Constable subsequently asked the Police Ombudsman to investigate the police handling of the incident.

Enquiries established that during the 999 call, made at 10.49pm on 3 February 2012, a police officer was told: "Mourneview Estate, Portlec Place, a fella been beaten to f**k. Get there." The caller – later established to have been one of three men involved in killing Mr Lorimer - then hung up.

When requesting patrols to check the area, the officer failed to advise them that the caller had referred to Portlec Place. Instead he asked them to check the area around the phone box used for the call, at nearby Russell Drive.

Communicating via the police radio, the officer said: "All call signs for your information, took a treble nine call from the phone box at Russell Drive. A male caller just said he’s beat, get here now, and hung up. Any free call sign just take a run past that area, see if anyone is hanging around that phone box."

Two police patrols checked streets around Russell Drive, including Portlec Place, but saw nothing suspicious.

Mr Lorimer’s body was discovered two days later inside his flat. A post mortem examination showed that he had died from injuries sustained in a serious assault, having been struck with a heavy weapon, using at least moderate force, up to nine times.

The pathologist concluded that Mr Lorimer was likely to have survived for some time after the assault, but it was difficult to be precise about how long for.

During their investigation, Police Ombudsman investigators obtained and reviewed all relevant police documentation, as well as recordings of the 999 call and all related police radio broadcasts.

The officer who dealt with the 999 call (Officer 1), as well as officers in the patrols which responded, were all interviewed.

Officer 1 said he could not recall Mourneview Estate and Portlec Place having been mentioned but acknowledged that the information should have been recorded and provided to patrols.

However, the investigation found that two police patrols had nevertheless checked Portlec Place in response to Officer 1’s initial instruction to check the area around the Russell Drive phone box.

One patrol, which had been in the area at the time, reported spending 10-15 minutes checking streets including Russell Drive, Portlec Place, Ardboe Drive and Colban Crescent. Another reported going to the area and spending five minutes searching streets, including Portlec Place, before leaving to deal with a second reported assault at Princes Street, about 1.3 miles away.

Following the call about the Princes Street attack, received by Officer 1 some 18 minutes after the call about the Portlec Place incident, the officer radioed crews to request that they conduct a further check of the Mourneview Estate area, given that two reports of assault had been made in a short period of time.

A third patrol reported that they had responded to this transmission, and they too had checked the streets around the phone box at Russell Drive, as well as getting out of their vehicle to check the phone box itself.

Having reviewed the evidence, Police Ombudsman Dr Michael Maguire concluded there was no evidence Officer 1’s failure to mention Portlec Place had contributed to Mr Lorimer’s death. Three police patrols had checked the street and found nothing suspicious.

However, Dr Maguire found that Officer 1 should have taken "greater care to record all relevant information" provided during the anonymous phone call about the attack at Portlec Place.

"While the caller did not provide a precise address, the officer should have recorded and passed on to police patrols the exact details provided by the caller," said Dr Maguire.

Dr Maguire also found that the police patrols which responded to Officer 1’s radio transmissions, had acted appropriately and proportionately in their search of streets close to the Russell Drive phone box.

Officer 1 has since been disciplined for failing to accurately record and pass on the information he received during the 999 call relating to the attack on Mr Lorimer.

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