Police apology over double murder


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The Independent Online

A police force apologised today for its handling of a convicted sex offender who tortured and murdered a woman and her young daughter.

Former soldier Thomas Smith, now 28, was jailed for life last year for the horrific attacks on Diane Fallon and her 10-year-old daughter Holly in Ayrshire in 2009.

Strathclyde Police today said sorry for the fact that Smith was able to murder them "while we had responsibility for managing him".

"There are undoubtedly things that we could and should have done better," the force said in a statement.

The apology comes on the day the findings of an independent review into the case were made public.

Unemployed Smith lived next door to his victims at the time when he launched his murderous attack.

The significant case review report found that "more robust" management of Smith could have identified his "increasing risk".

It also stated that there were "several missed investigative opportunities" which should have resulted in Smith being subjected to greater police scrutiny, possibly resulting in his return to custody.

Strathclyde Police said they had apologised directly to the victims' relatives.

The force added that it accepted all of the report's findings and would make sure all points raised would be acted upon.

Assistant Chief Constable George Hamilton said: "It is our job to keep people safe. Doing this means that we have to manage people like Smith in our communities.

"I am sorry that he was able to murder Diane and Holly while we had responsibility for managing him.

"I have met with the family of Diane and Holly Fallon, shared the findings of the report with them and I have made that apology directly to them.

"There are undoubtedly things that we could and should have done better. The review points these areas out.

"We fully accept what the report says and we have made a number of changes since the murders and as a result of the review process. Lessons have been learned and major improvements have been made."

Paying tribute to the victims' family, he added: "I cannot begin to imagine how difficult these past two and a half years have been for the Fallon family.

"I know that they have had to hear and read things in court and in this report that no family should ever have to deal with.

"They are a remarkable group of people who have shown incredible courage and dignity throughout this most terrible time in their lives."

Smith tied his victims up, raped Holly and bit Mrs Fallon's body before strangling them at a house in the village of Cronberry, near Cumnock.

The mother and daughter disappeared on March 28 2009 after attending a village fete. Their bodies were discovered 11 days later.

Mr Hamilton today described Smith as a "despicable" individual.

He said: "He befriended, then brutally murdered Diane and Holly Fallon.

"It was a crime that not only shocked our community, but also deprived a close-knit family of their loved ones and, in particular, the opportunity to watch Holly grow into adulthood.

"As this case was so shocking, it was only right that there was a review into what happened and the way in which Smith was managed as a registered sex offender.

"Every one of the agencies involved has fully supported and engaged with the review process. Now that it is complete I can say that we have accepted every one of its findings and recommendations.

"We are taking action to ensure that all of the points that have been raised are acted upon."