Police give family payout after woman froze to death in cemetery as officers didn't leave car when looking for her
Jacqueline Parsons, 56, was found injured by a passer-by in 2018
Loved ones of a woman who froze to death in a cemetery are to receive damages after two police community support officers spent just 10 minutes looking for her without leaving their car.
The PCSOs from Humberside Police were called to help Jacqueline Parsons, 56, in Western Cemetery in Hull after a passer-by found her injured in October 2018.
She had called out for help but the passer-by was unable to move her, and returned home to call emergency services because he had no phone with him.
The officers arrived at the cemetery more than 90 minutes later, and spent 10 minutes looking for her without leaving their patrol car.
Miss Parsons was found dead at around 9.15am the next day.
A pathologist told the inquest into her death that she could have been saved if she had been found earlier.
Miss Parsons’ brother Stephen, 64, said: “Still to this day, I can’t come to terms with the fact that Jacqueline would still be here if the police had just done their jobs and done a proper search of the area.
“If they’d just got out of their car and walked around it is likely she’d have been found. I remember it was a cold and wet day and I have always wondered how much that influenced what happened.”
The call dispatcher described Miss Parsons as “under the influence”, but her brother said the level of alcohol in her blood – 93mg per 100ml, compared with the drink-drive limit of 80mg – suggested she was not “excessively drunk”.
He added: “To think of her left there alone is heartbreaking. I think from the moment the call was logged, and she was described as being intoxicated, there was a dismissive approach from all involved.
“The alcohol levels suggest she wasn’t excessively drunk as she was only just over the legal drink-drive limit.
“The references to her being intoxicated annoyed those close to us. She would not have been drunk. She was someone who was always well dressed and had an immaculate home.
“To not get out of the car and to leave after around 10 minutes, having simply driven round and shone a couple of torches, was appalling.”
Miss Parsons’ siblings and partner took legal action against Humberside Police claiming the failures breached the force’s duty of care to protect the right to life.
Adam Biglin, from Hudgell Solicitors, which represented the family, said: “This was a wholly inadequate search in terms of both approach and attitude.
“The police failed to do their job of investigating and instead made a number of assumptions. These assumptions, and failings to follow proper procedures, proved fatal.
“The method of searching was not to the proper standard. At no point did the officers leave their police vehicle and they used torches that were not powerful enough to carry out a proper search.
“Nor did they make any attempt to check that Jacqueline had returned home safe, given that they had been provided with her name and address by the man who called to report that she needed help.
“It has been heartbreaking for her loved ones to know that she was left to die alone when she could so easily have been found and saved.”
The cause of Miss Parsons’ death was found to be the freezing temperature combined with the alcohol in her system and the injury to her ankle.
Coroner Professor Paul Marks told the inquest that the search carried out by police was inadequate.
Humberside Deputy Chief Constable Paul Anderson said: “Jacqueline Parsons’ death was a terribly tragic incident and our thoughts and condolences remain with her family and loved ones.
“We have agreed a settlement with the family following a claim that was received on conclusion of the inquest in 2020, as we fully acknowledged the decision reached by the coroner.
“Following Jacqueline’s death in October 2018, we immediately and voluntarily referred the incident to the Independent Office of Police Conduct due to our involvement. They asked us to carry out a full and thorough review and identify any learning, which was completed and guidance provided to those involved at the time.
“On conclusion of the inquest we further looked at lessons to be learned and have already implemented additional training for officers and staff to prevent any unnecessary distress or worry and to assist should there ever be this type of incident across our force area again.”