Call for police assurances over Elizabeth Bowe murder

© DC Thomson
Fife Council headquarters in Glenrothes.

The murder of a Fife grandmother at the hands of her violent brother has prompted calls for assurances from police.

A Fife councillor wants a senior officer from Police Scotland to discuss the events leading to Elizabeth Bowe’s death in St Andrews last year and explain the mechanisms in place to prevent a similar tragedy in the future.

Liberal Democrat member Tim Brett will ask members of North East Fife Area Committee on Wednesday to agree officers are asked to attend next month’s meeting to discuss the issue.

His motion follows findings from the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (Pirc) that Mrs Bowe could have been saved had police attended promptly following her call for help.

The known victim of domestic abuse who was recorded by Police Scotland as a vulnerable person, had dialled 999 less than an hour-and-a-half before her brother Charles Gordon phoned police to say he had killed her.

She was initially told officers would attend urgently after she reported Gordon had stolen her mobile phone but it was subsequently decided no crime had been committed and the response was called off.

Police have accepted the report and are implementing a number of recommendations. They have also given risk and vulnerability training to more than 800 staff.

Mr Brett said it was important local people had confidence in the process of reporting an incident and it being investigated.

“I would like to understand what system the police have for identifying and recording vulnerable individuals, which is what Elizabeth Bowe was,” he said.

“Who decides who is vulnerable and what are the criteria? I would be interested to know how many vulnerable individuals are in the police database and how many calls they get from these individuals to get some context.

“Lastly, and most importantly, given this has happened, what mechanism do the police have to reassure themselves and all of us that their systems are working properly and will work properly?”

Mr Brett said the issue was the remit of the environment, protective services and community safety committee but a request to discuss it there had been blocked by the convener, Councillor Ross Vettraino.

Mr Vettraino claimed there was nothing senior officers could tell them that was not already known.

“There have been significant improvements to the response from the call centres, which was the finding in both of the investigations that were done by Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary in November 2015 and January this year,” he said.

“The Scottish Government has considered the findings of both of those reviews and responded to concerns through the First Minister at question time.”