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Stefan Sutherland case needs police failures probe

Police investigations poor

Many Highlanders are anxious by the inability of police officers in the north of Scotland to investigate serious crime. There is a clear pattern of either incompetence or laziness which suggests a badly broken chain of command in the north. Former police officers talk fondly of the old days but then add that the foul-ups last 25 or so years have not been good. It wasn’t then and it isn’t now.

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Kevin McLeod of Wick. Police apologised for failing to investigate for criminality.

It was in 1997 that Kevin McLeod, a 24-year-old electrician met his untimely end when he was found drowned in Wick Harbour. The body had suspicious injuries. A series of silly cock-ups by officers who should have known better meant that probe went nowhere. Northern Consabulary was instructed by the Crown Office to treat it as a murder. They never got round to doing that. Appalling.

As Kevin’s father Hugh said a few years ago: “The police say they found no criminality. But they missed the golden hours and they didn’t look for criminality. They weren’t going to find it if they didn’t look. Kevin’s clothes were in the sergeant’s office for three days and then disappeared. In a murder inquiry, they should have been bagged, tagged and kept.”

No one was disciplined at Wick police because hopeless senior cops had not given them instructions. These responsible cops for these appalling failures are now retired and sitting at home on fat pensions while Kevin’s family still mourn and still have to campaign for justice.

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Unsolved – Stefan Sutherland. Police claim to have investigated for criminality but questions remain.

And now Stefan Sutherland’s case

And in the last few years, we had the case of Stefan Sutherland, 25, of Lybster, also in Caithness. It is clear there has been some mysterious constabulary foot-dragging in that tragedy too. How Police Scotland, new name but the same couldn’t-care-less attitude, can say they could find no criminality is unconsionable. There has been a review – by Police Scotland, of course, marking their own homework – in which they decided there was no evidence of wrongdoing.

There was a prime suspect – a man with a very dodgy record. The last time Stefan was seen was going into his house. It has emerged Stefan’s DNA was later found in the suspect’s property. After a major review, police failed to interview the suspect because, said Police Scotland, there was insufficient evidence. His family say the findings show these blnkered cops were only interested in Stefan’s Facebook pages. There is a place for digital investigations but this was one where they should have got off their bottoms and followed the material leads.

Will anything ever happen?

Now that the prime suspect has died, the family of Stefan fear the chiefs of Police Scotland will continue doing nothing and leave them forever wondering what happened.

One Scottish newspaper has thankfully helped his family keep up awareness of Stefan’s case and thereby the sheer cack-handedness of police in the north. The coverage of his case by the Daily Record is a wonderful example of campaigning journalism. Insiders says Police Scotland bosses don’t agree. Good.

One serious question remains. Why are there no decent Scottish politicians campaigning for an independent investigation? There are other suspected cases but these two in the north are two of the worst cases of the force’s ineptitude. Is every politician in Holyrood and Westminster too scared to speak out? Why is that?

Honest ex-cops tell us there are always some bad apples in uniform. In other parts of the country, quite a number have been jailed recently. In many ways, the consequences of just failing to do their job right is just as serious for victims and their families.

Can you help the police?

If you have any relevant information on either of these two cases, you should contact Police Scotland on 101. You may also call anonymously to Crimestoppers UK on 0800 555111.

Alternatively, if you do not wish to speak to a person, you could call the 24-hour Impartial Investigations hotline on 0800 887 0111. It is voicemail only. No human will answer and you can speak for up to 10 minutes. We will pass on any information received to the family concerned.

Or call us for a chat. Just go to the Contact Us page.

Impartial Investigations
23 January 2022

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