Former scenes of crime officer arrested

INVESTIGATIONS into dozens of deaths may be re-opened following the arrest of a former police scenes of crime officer.

Cleveland Police have confirmed that cases in Hartlepool are among 90 mainly suspicious or sudden deaths which are now under review.

The former officer, who has not been named, has been arrested and bailed on suspicion of theft and perverting the cause of justice.

Details of a wider inquiry, which has been ongoing for 18 months, were revealed for the first time today.

A police statement said the review centres on the quality of the man’s qualifications and work as a scenes of crime officer up until his resignation from the force last year.

It added that a dedicated investigation team has examined all the incidents the man attended.

Specific cases have been identified where the force have taken the decision to write to the people concerned to inform them about the situation and answer any questions they may have.

One investigation into an unnamed death in Cleveland has already been reopened.

Detective Inspector Warren Shepheard, from Cleveland Police’s investigation team, said: “This investigation has been ongoing for some time now, as it is extremely complex and involves a significant number of cases which have had to be meticulously re-examined.

“Our priority has been to identify whether there have been any issues of concern about the man’s work on the incidents he attended during his time with Cleveland Police.

“We have worked through all the incidents the man attended and are now at the stage where we have identified around 90 cases, which are in the main suspicious or sudden deaths, and have contacted people who are affected to explain the situation to them.”

A force spokesman added that the cases include deaths in the Hartlepool area.

Hartlepool coroner Malcolm Donnelly could not be contacted for comment.

The matter has also been referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) with the investigation carried out by the force’s professional standards department under the direction and control of the IPCC.

Det Insp Shepheard said trained family liaison officers would continue to provide support to anyone affected by the inquiry.

He added: “Although we have already been in touch with the people we have identified, we recognise that others may have concerns and a special phone line with an automated message and a chance for callers to leave a message has been set up. That number is (01642) 301677.”