The sheriff of San Francisco Police Department has admitted to a series of failings in the search for a missing British woman, whose body was found in the stairwell of the city's General Hospital.
Lynne Spalding, 57, was being treated for a bladder infection at San Francisco General Hospital after she arrived in a thin and frail condition on 19 September. She went missing from her room on 21 September.
The body of Ms Spalding was only discovered 17 days later when a member of the hospital’s engineering staff ran a routine check on a rarely-used external stairwell.
The mother of two, from Peterlee, County Durham, had moved to San Francisco several years before to work in the travel industry.
Ms Spalding's family called for an investigation after the incident into how she got into the stairs unnoticed when the door to it was alarmed and locked from the outside. Her friends and family said they had spent days searching San Francisco and handing out flyers because they were “under the assumption that San Francisco General had been searched and Lynne was not here”.
Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi said he wanted to implement measures to make sure an incident such as this did not happen again.
Speaking to reporters at City Hall, Sheriff Mirkarimi said deputies had failed to check the stairwells in their search for Ms Spalding.
They also had the wrong racial description for Ms Spalding in their missing persons investigation.
“She could have been anyone's loved one, which is why the gravity of the situation is not lost on any of us,'' he said.
“What happened to Miss Spalding Ford should not have happened to anyone.''
The hospital also issued a statement on Wednesday afternoon apologising for the incident and said: "We owe it to them, [her family] and to all our current and future patients, to strengthen our security services,“ according to ABC news.
The cause of her death has yet to be confirmed.