Family of Scarborough man to sue police over son's death

Gavin Egan
Gavin Egan

The grieving family of a young man found drowned in a freezing lake AFTER a police officer carried out a 'four minute search' for him are to sue her force.

Relatives of tragic Gavin Egan, 34, claim North Yorkshire police failed to ensure that a proper search was carried out after officers were alerted to his plight early this year.

A dog-walker told police he had pulled a man out from the freezing water of Peasholm Lake, Scarborough, at 4am on February 24.

PC Helen Hardie who visited the lake could not find Mr Egan and made a four-minute search of the scene before leaving, an official probe later found.

Mr Egan's body was found in the lake at 11am.

During an Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) investigation it was revealed PC Hardie had been 'disinclined to believe the incident had happened' and never intended to search the whole lake.

She came to the conclusion that the dog walker may have been homeless and could have fabricated the entire story.

She said she would have 'a quick look round' the park, which lasted just four minutes and fourteen seconds.

The officer's handling of the call out was investigated and resulted in Hardie being handed a written warning following the misconduct hearing on Wednesday (2 Nov).

However, at Gavin's inquest the following day, PC Hardie was ill and couldn't attend the hearing as a witness.

Because of her absence, the inquest will now take place in February 2017.

Gavin's mother Lesley Shields, said: "It is completely appalling and I am furious that this can be allowed to happen.

"It has been a terrible ordeal for me and to be told the full inquest was not going ahead was almost too much to bear.

"My children and granddaughter are angry and upset at having taken unpaid leave from work to attend. It is all very unfair."

Leslie said she returned home from the police hearing on Wednesday to an answer phone message from the North Yorkshire Coroners' office.

The voicemail, left 15 minutes before the police hearing started, said PC Hardie would not be in attendance the following day for the inquest due to sickness.

Mrs Shields is now launching legal action against the force following the events.

Speaking about the misconduct hearing, Mrs Shields said: "All the evidence has pointed to the fact that the officer felt she didn't need to go out in the first place, didn't believe the witness and couldn't be bothered to do a full search of the area.

"She has basically shone a torch across the lake briefly and gone back to the warmth of her station. How on earth can anyone suggest a four minute search is enough?"

Mrs Shield's lawyer says there was a clear lack of commitment from the officer to do her duty on the morning of Mr Egan's death and from the force to ensure the search was conducted correctly.

Andrew Petherbridge, a human rights case specialist at Hudgell Solicitors, said: "This is a very sad case and one in which it is clear that the officer involved has failed in her duties to carry out a full and proper search and ensure she has done all in her power to protect the public.

"PC Hardie's failure to carry out a proper search and failure to take steps to ensure a proper search was carried out were a significant breach of her duty of care and well below the standard of policing expected.

"If all reports of people in danger received this sort of response and commitment - we would all be in worrying times."

Speaking about her son's death, Mrs Shields said: "I have no idea why he was in Peasholm Park at that time in the morning, but it was a favourite place of his as his dad used to take him there when he was growing up - he went there to reflect on things.

"All I can think is that perhaps he had been out for the night with friends and something has gone wrong."