Greater Manchester Police officers watched Netflix and used dumbbells in missing woman's home
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A young mum has blasted police officers for watching Netflix and lifting weights as they minded her home after she went missing.
But while bosses have since spoken to the two officers about their conduct, they have concluded that they did not breach standards of professional behavior.
Abbygail Lawton, from Wigan was suffering a mental health crisis when paramedics raised the alarm about her welfare, calling in the police for back-up. Officers searched her home to confirm she was not there before settling down on her settee with their feet up while scrolling through Abbygail's TV trying to find episodes of Come Dine with Me to view.
The mother of one was missing for several hours before she was found by two other officers. She was then “arrested for wasting police time” and spent 12 hours in custody before being released without charge.
It was when she finally returned home and re-watched CCTV footage that she saw the two male officers making themselves too comfy for her liking and also “mocking” her. In her lounge, they remarked about how she had recently watched The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, started working out and even looked straight into the camera to say “Hello Abbygail, I know you're watching us.”
She told Wigan Today: “You hear them say 'we could do with watching something like Come Dine With Me' before the other one sees Dog's Behaving Badly and starts saying how 'it's quite good'. They then choose something on Netflix and start watching TV. One of the officers then gets my dumbbell and starts doing weights, which you can see in the footage, before sitting back down.”
Abbygail was in woodland when she was alerted on her phone that there was activity in her home and said she was furious that they had invaded her privacy. She said “I was in the woods really struggling, I had overdosed before I left and was in a really bad mental health crisis.
"I spoke to the sergeant on the phone and heard one of the officers say ‘she’s happy to speak to the sergeant but not to be found.’ It showed a complete lack of sympathy for what I was going through. They knew I would be able to see them on the CCTV footage and yet made totally inappropriate remarks.”
After a large scale search police helicopters, Abbygail found in the woods around 4am by a male and female police officer. A sergeant told her she would be taken to hospital but instead she was taken into custody, spending around 12 hours there before her release.
A mental health nurse who came to visit during the ordeal urged her to make a formal complaint, adding that she should have been taken to hospital instead. An internal investigation was launched.
Greater Manchester Police said in a statement: "Greater Manchester Police’s Professional Standards Directorate (PSD) has finalised a complaint regarding two officers’ behaviour whilst responding to a concern for welfare.On Monday February 5 2024, the force received a complaint about the behaviour of two PCs at a property in Wigan. CCTV images shared via social media showed both PCs watching television and one PC using a dumbbell.
"The PSD’s assessment established that, at around 9.30pm on Wednesday 3 January 2024, GMP was contacted by NWAS following a report of concern for the welfare of a female, who said she was in a remote area and in need of medical attention. As per the standard response to a call of this nature, officers were deployed to the female’s home address to search the property and the surrounding area.
"They remained at the location primarily to safeguard the female should she return to the home address. Meanwhile, additional and specialist resources – including the helicopter and drone – were deployed to the remote area to assist. The female was located in the early hours of the following morning.
"During the assessment, the PSD reviewed all available records and footage and spoke to those involved. In consideration of the full circumstances, it was determined that – whilst the two officers should reflect on and learn from the complaint - their behaviour did not breach the standards of professional behaviour. The complainant has been informed of this decision and her right to request a review of the outcome – should she wish to do so.”
A spokesperson for GMP’s Professional Standards Branch said: “Greater Manchester is a busy jurisdiction and there is always a 999 call to respond to so it’s understandable that the publication of these CCTV images without explanation could undermine public trust and confidence. What the CCTV leaves unsaid is that the officers’ attendance at the property over a prolonged period of time had been agreed with those leading the operation to ensure that the female was safeguarded should she return to the property, as she had indicated she was trying to.
"The officers have been spoken to and understand that, whilst the television had been left on and dumbbells left out, they should have refrained from watching it or using them whilst they were deployed to the location.”
Abbygail said: “I'm disappointed and ashamed by the two officers sitting watching TV, the comments that they made and how they acted at my property. I've not given them consent to be in my house or watch TV or use my gym equipment. It was as though they were mocking me and taking the mick while I was out in the woods in a crisis, the weather was awful that day, raining and cold, I was clearly having a mental health crisis and they just sat here watching TV as if to say '**** it, we don't care if she's missing'.”