Relatives of a woman who froze to death in a cemetery are to be awarded damages after two police community support officers spent just 10 minutes looking for her without leaving their car.
Humberside Police PCSOs were called to help Jacqueline Parsons, 56, at Hull Western Cemetery after a passerby found her injured in October 2018.
She had called for help but the passerby could not move her and went home to call for help because he did not have a phone on him.
Officers arrived at the cemetery more than 90 minutes later and spent 10 minutes looking for her without leaving their patrol car.
Miss Parsons was found dead at around 9.15am the following day.
A pathologist told the inquest into her death that she could have been saved had she been found sooner.
Miss Parsons’ brother Stephen, 64, said: ‘Still to this day I cannot accept that Jacqueline would still be here if the police had just done their job and properly searched the area.
“If they had just gotten out of their car and walked around it is likely she would have been found. I remember it was a cold, wet day and I always wondered how much that influenced what happened.
The call dispatcher described Miss Parsons as ‘under the influence’ but her brother said her blood alcohol level – 93mg per 100ml, against the drinking limit of 80 mg – suggested she was not “excessively drunk”.
He added: “To think of her being left alone there is heartbreaking. I think from the moment the call was recorded and she was described as being intoxicated, there was a dismissive approach from everyone involved.
“Alcohol levels suggest she was not excessively drunk as she was just over the legal drink-driving limit.
“References to her drunkenness annoyed those close to us. She wouldn’t have been drunk. She was someone who was always well dressed and had a spotless home.
“Not getting out of the car and leaving after about 10 minutes, after just driving around and lighting a few torches, was appalling.”
The siblings and Miss Parsons’ partner have taken legal action against Humberside Police, claiming the breaches breached the force’s duty of care to protect the right to life.
Adam Biglin of Hudgell Solicitors, who represented the family, said: ‘It was totally inadequate research in terms of approach and attitude.
“The police failed to do their investigative work and instead made a number of assumptions. Those assumptions and failure to follow proper procedures proved fatal.
“The research method was not up to the appropriate standard. At no time did the officers leave their police vehicle and they used torches that were not powerful enough to conduct a proper search.
“Nor did they attempt to verify that Jacqueline had returned home safely, as her name and address had been provided to them by the man who had called to report that she needed assistance. .
“It was heartbreaking for her loved ones to know that she was left to die alone when she could so easily have been found and saved.”
Miss Parsons’ cause of death was found to be the freezing temperature combined with the alcohol in her system and the injury to her ankle.
Coroner Professor Paul Marks told the inquest that the search carried out by the police was inadequate.
Humberside Deputy Chief Constable Paul Anderson said: ‘Jacqueline Parsons’ death was a terribly tragic incident and our thoughts and condolences are with her family and loved ones.
“We have agreed to a settlement with the family following a claim which was received at the end of the inquest in 2020 as we fully acknowledged the decision made by the coroner.
“Following Jacqueline’s death in October 2018, we immediately and voluntarily referred the incident to the Independent Police Conduct Office due to our involvement. They asked us to conduct a full and thorough review and identify any learning, which was completed and guidance provided to those involved at the time.
“At the end of the investigation, we have looked at the lessons to be learned and have already put in place additional training for officers and staff to avoid any unnecessary distress or worry and to help if ever this type of incident was happening again in our area of strength.”