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Police payout after woman died as they spent under 10 minutes looking for her

… not as powerful as dedicated lighting systems that marked police vehicles are …

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A police force has paid damages to the family of a woman who froze to death in a cemetery after PCSOs called off a search after less than 10 minutes. The officers from Humberside Police didn’t even step foot outside of their car to look for Jacqueline Parsons, 56, as she lay dying in Western Cemetery in Hull, East Yorks.

Jacqueline had fallen off her bike and injured herself, prompting a passer-by to call police from home as he didn’t have a mobile and feared she’d be locked in overnight. Her body was discovered by a dog walker the following morning in October 2018.

Humberside Police has now agreed a settlement with her loved ones who took legal action alleging its failures were a breach of its duty of care to protect the right to life. Jacqueline’s heartbroken brother Stephen, 64, said he’d been left angry at the “basic failings” and had taken legal action to ensure lessons were learned.

He said: “Still to this day I can’t come to terms with the fact that Jacqueline would still be here if the police had just done their jobs and done a proper search of the area. If they’d just got out of their car and walked around it is likely she’d have been found.

“I remember it was a cold and wet day and I have always wondered how much that influenced what happened. To think of her left there alone is heartbreaking.”

Following the initial call at around 4.45pm on October 27 2018, the incident had been logged as urgent. But according to solicitors who acted for the family, it took until 6.20pm for two PCSOs to be dispatched to assist a woman described as being under the influence.

The dispatcher said that only a “quick area search” was required given the time which had passed since the initial call without any further reports, Hudgell Solicitors said. An inquest into Jacqueline’s death heard that at no point did the officers leave their vehicle and the search was called off after about 10 minutes as she hadn’t been found.

It heard their search consisted of them driving slowly with their car windows down to scan the land adjacent to the main cemetery road which looped around the cemetery. Neither were trained in search techniques and their torches were not as powerful as dedicated lighting systems that marked police vehicles are equipped with.

It ruled that freezing overnight temperatures, the alcohol in her system and the injury to her ankle from falling off her bike had all contributed to her death. Ms Parsons’ body was discovered the next day – almost 17 hours after the first call was made to cops.

Stephen added: “I think from the moment the call was logged, and she was described as being intoxicated, there was a dismissive approach from all involved. To not get out of the car and to leave after around 10 minutes, having simply driven round and shone a couple of torches, was appalling.”

Adam Biglin, from Hudgell Solicitors, described the search as “wholly inadequate in terms of both approach and attitude”. He said: “At no point did the officers leave their police vehicle and they used torches that were not powerful enough to carry out a proper search.

“Nor did they make any attempt to check that Jacqueline had retuned home safe, given that they had been provided with her name and address by the man who called to report that she needed help. “The police failed to do their job of investigating and instead made a number of assumptions.

“These assumptions, and failings to follow proper procedures, proved fatal.”

Humberside Police has been approached for comment.

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