A retired police officer has apologised to the families of two people who lay undiscovered for days in a crashed car after he failed to log a call reporting the incident, saying he is “tortured” by what happened.
Retired police sergeant Brian Henry, 61, said he feels “dreadful” for the families of Lamara Bell and John Yuill and that the incident “lives with me every day and will always do so”.
Ms Bell, 25, and Mr Yuill, 28, died after the car they were in left the M9 near Stirling on July 5, 2015 as they drove back from a camping trip.
They lay in their Renault Clio for three days before being discovered on July 8, despite police previously being alerted to the incident.
Mr Henry said he cannot explain why he failed to log the call about the crashed car and that he goes over what happened again and again in his mind.
A fatal accident inquiry (FAI) at Falkirk Sheriff Court previously heard Mr Henry took a 101 call from farmer John Wilson on July 5 reporting a car off the road and recorded it in his police notebook, but he failed to log it into the Storm case management system and no action was taken.
On Tuesday, the inquiry heard a statement prepared by Mr Henry which was read by senior counsel Gavin Anderson KC.
In the statement, Mr Henry said: “I want to say at the outset how dreadful I feel for the families and their loss. This incident lives with me every day and will always do so.
“I know the grief and loss that the families feel is not something that will ever leave them.
“I want them to know that having given my whole life to serving Police Scotland, it’s devastating to me that I have been involved in the events of that day.”
In a message directed at the families, he added: “I want them to know I am sorry for their loss. I still torture myself trying to work out what actually happened.
“As a police officer I was always proactive, I always went the extra mile, which is why explaining this is so hard and I go over it again and again.”
Mr Anderson then asked Mr Henry whether the words in his statement still express what he wants to convey to the inquiry, and he replied: “Yes they do.”
The crashed car was discovered on July 8, 2015 after another member of the public rang police to report seeing it and emergency services went to investigate.
Mr Yuill was pronounced dead at the scene and Ms Bell died four days later in hospital.
The inquiry heard that if Ms Bell had been found sooner she would probably have survived, though with the likelihood of a long-term neurological disability.
Mr Henry, who retired in August 2018 after 30 years of police service, was working an overtime shift at Bilston Glen call centre at the time of the incident.
He was based in Dalkeith, where he worked in the crime management department, but had volunteered to do overtime at Bilston Glen having heard they were under pressure from his wife who worked there.
The inquiry heard he was given no formal training before undertaking the overtime and relied on his decades of policing experience when answering calls.
On July 5, he took 101 calls about a busker and a noisy dog from members of the public and logged them in the Storm system but did not log the call from Mr Wilson about the crashed car.
He was taken through a transcript of the call with Mr Wilson in which the inquiry heard he asked “is there anyone with the vehicle?” to which the farmer replied “No, no”.
Mr Henry said the call left him with the impression there was nobody at or near the car and that it may have been abandoned.
He said there was no way he would not have created a Storm incident unless he had been distracted in some way, and there was no way he would have ignored it.
The inquiry was shown a photograph of the page in Mr Henry’s notebook where he had noted the details of the call, where he had written: “John Wilson – M9 Perth to Stirling junction 9 southbound. Vehicle – sky blue – in bushes.”
Mr Henry said the incident had been “devastating” for everyone involved and he hopes nothing like it will ever happen again.
The inquiry also heard a joint minute agreed by participants which was read out by junior counsel to the inquiry Elaine Smith.
It stated that Mr Henry could not explain his omission to log the call, which was described as “simple human error”.
The inquiry heard the sergeant had worked several overtime shifts at Bilston Glen and was considered a “diligent” and “conscientious” worker who tried to resolve the issues on a call.
The minute stated Mr Henry was “inadequately trained by Police Scotland prior to being asked to answer calls from the public”.
It also said Police Scotland had not identified there was a risk of human error in the logging of incidents and did not have systems in place to reduce that risk.
The FAI comes after the family of Ms Bell was awarded more than £1m in damages from Police Scotland in a civil settlement in December 2021.
In September 2021, the force was fined £100,000 at the High Court in Edinburgh after it pleaded guilty to health and safety failings which “materially contributed” to Ms Bell’s death.
The inquiry, before Sheriff James Williamson, continues.
STV News is now on WhatsApp
Get all the latest news from around the countryFollow STV News
Follow STV News on WhatsApp
Scan the QR code on your mobile device for all the latest news from around the country