Police who failed to find boy's bones apologise

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The Independent Online

A couple who found the bones of their son in their burnt-out home two weeks after his funeral received an apology from the police yesterday.

Grampian Police officers had failed to find the remains of Jack Dugan, aged five, who died with his three-year-old brother, Toby, after a fire swept through their house in Aberdeenshire on 21 January.

The parents Alan Dugan, a Grampian Police constable, and his partner, Julie Tanner, found the bones when they returned to lay flowers.

They had previously believed the remains of the two boys were buried in a single coffin on 4 February. Two weeks later, the bodies were exhumed for the remains to be added.

The incident has led to an inquiry by Tayside Police into the handling of the case by the Grampian force, which concluded that mistakes had been made. Alan Brown, Grampian's Chief Constable, said in a statement yesterday: "It is clear from the report that the distress experienced by Alan and Julie at their tragic loss was considerably exacerbated by the failure to find Jack during the initial search. The force deeply regrets the additional stress caused to the family and has apologised unreservedly."

Mr Brown said the reportproduced by a team led by Clive Murray, the Tayside Police Chief Superintendent, gave advice to individual officers and recommended forces across Scotland share their experiences. "Alan and Julie are aware of the report's explanation and details will remain private to save them further distress," Mr Brown said.

"It is evident that mistakes were made, although Mr Murray concludes that no officer wilfully neglected their duty. There are, however, several learning points that will assist the investigation of similar incidents in the future," he added.

The fire, which is thought to have been caused by an electrical fault, began while the two boys were sleeping in a back bedroom of their home in Strathdon, a remote village 40 miles from Aberdeen.

Mr Dugan, 34, reached their room to find the boys were not in bed, but was beaten back by the flames. He was treated at Aberdeen's Royal Infirmary for 40 per cent burns to his head, neck and back. Mrs Tanner, 39, whose 12-year-old daughter from an earlier marriage, Micki, managed to escape unharmed, was also treated for burns. She had called the emergency services while Mr Dugan tried to find the boys, but it was 35 minutes before the fire brigade reached them.

Fire investigators sifting through several feet of debris in the converted schoolhouse the next day found the remains of one of the children, but did not find those of Jack.

Toby had just started at the 20-pupil Towie School's nursery and Jack was its only Year One pupil. Mrs Tanner has two older sons, Joe, 17, and Kevin, 19, who were not in the house when the fire broke out.

Mr Brown that Grampian Police had made considerable progress since it was accused of "amateurism" two years ago during an investigation into the death of a nine-year-old boy, Scott Simpson. Steven Leisk, a paedophile, was later jailed for life but should have been one of the force's main suspects, an independent report found. But Mr Brown said there was still room for improvement.