Police face action over missing girl

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The Independent Online
FOUR police officers are to be disciplined over a search for a missing schoolgirl who was later found dead in a fume-filled car.

West Mercia Police admitted there was 'something clearly wrong' with the way inquiries to trace 15-year-old Karen Bland were carried out.

She died in an apparent suicide pact and was discovered alongside a friend, John Whittingslow, 21, in a car with a tube leading inside from the exhaust.

Her death on 29 June last year came more than a month after she was reported missing.

Miss Bland's mother, Maggie, subsequently protested to the Police Complaints Authority that officers did not do enough to find her. The PCA has recommended disciplinary action against three officers for neglect of duty. It said two more officers should be admonished and a further two given an informal reprimand.

West Mercia Police yesterday said the three officers recommended for disciplinary action - and one other - would be called before a hearing headed by the Chief Constable, David Blakey.

At her home in Telford, Shropshire, yesterday, Mrs Bland maintained that one officer had told her he had seen Karen after she disappeared but did not follow up the sighting.

The PCA said it had made known in 'the strongest possible terms' its concern over failings of the force in the management of their missing persons inquiries.

Assistant Chief Constable David Tursfield said there was 'something very wrong' in the way the inquiry had been conducted, adding: 'I am extremely concerned that this contributed to the distress suffered by her parents and on behalf of the force wish to express our sorrow for this.

'An inspector, a sergeant and two constables are to appear before the Chief Constable on charges of breach of discipline as a result.'

A date has not yet been fixed for an inquest into the deaths of Miss Bland and Mr Whittingslow.