Did police fail to respond to death van call?

editorial image

While a family grieves over a second tragic death in four years, Police Scotland finds itself under investigation for its handling of the case.

David Penman (46) was found dead in a parked van in Dunipace on Thursday, December 15 – back in 2012 he and his family lost his son David Westwater (22) after a workplace accident in Coatbridge.

While it is believed Mr Penman’s death was not suspicious, questions are now being asked as to why police officers, who were reportedly made aware of the van as early as Tuesday, December 13, through telephone calls from concerned members of the public, only found his body two days later.

In a statement issued through the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (PIRC), which is handling the probe into the case, Mr Penman’s family asked for time to come to terms with their loss.

They said: “David was a much-loved father, son and brother and, as a family, we are devastated by his loss. We are now trying to come to terms with this loss and would ask for our privacy to be respected to allow us to grieve in peace.”

Falkirk West MSP Michael Matheson MSP, Scottish justice minister, said: “My thoughts are with the gentleman’s family at this time. I am aware PIRC is investigating the matter and that is the right course.

“Clearly, it would be premature to seek to speculate or draw any conclusions about what may or may not have happened until PIRC has concluded that investigation.”

The Crown Office referred the matter to PIRC and once the investigation, which is at an early stage, is carried out the findings will be passed back to the Crown Office to decide what action is to be taken.

A spokeswoman for PIRC said: “The Crown Office and Procurator ‎Fiscal Service (COPFS) has instructed PIRC to carry out an independent investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of a 46-year-old man following the discovery of his body in Dunipace on Thursday, December 15.

“A report on the Commissioner’s findings will be submitted to the COPFS in due course.”

It has been stated the case could be another scandal in waiting for Police Scotland, since it seems to bear certain similarities to last year’s M9 crash which saw two people left trapped in their crashed car near Bannockburn – just four miles away from Dunipace – for three days after officers failed to follow up a call.

Mr Penman’s family had to cope with the death of his son David, on August 28, 2012 when a forklift truck he was driving toppled over and landed on him.

At the time Elaine Smith, Mr Penman’s ex-partner, told The Falkirk Herald she had to wait for three days before police contacted her about her son’s death.

The accident happened on a Tuesday, but a police family liaison officer only turned up at the family home on Friday and could not tell her where David’s body was.

She said: “The police cheated me. I could have been there within 20 minutes, but they didn’t tell me what was going on.”