Search for Peterlee woman found dead in San Francisco hospital was ‘flawed’

Lynne Spalding
Lynne Spalding

AN investgation into the disappearance of a woman who was later found dead in an hospital stairwell was flawed according to reports from the USA.

The body of Lynne Spalding, who left Peterlee to live in America more than 20 years ago, was discovered in a stairwell at San Fransisco General Hospital on October 8.

She had disappeared more than a fortnight earlier in the hospital where she was being treated for a urinary infection.

The discovery of her body 17 days later led to a police investigation in the States, and it has been reported that several flaws have been discovered during the hunt for the 57-year-old.

San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi said officers looking for the mother-of-two failed to look in the stairwell, while CCTV footage was not properly looked at.

They also had the wrong racial description for Ms Spalding, with hospital workers having described her as African-American while a sheriff’s log book listed her as Asian, even though she was white.

Her death led city Mayor Ed Lee to request an investigation into the circumstances of her disappearance, and details were revealed at a press conference held in San Francisco.

Mr Mirkarimi said: “I vow to make sure something like this never happens again.”

He also added the incident led to “staffing changes” but did not give any further details.

After Ms Spalding was reported missing, a police officer asked colleagues to be on the lookout and they checked the perimeter of the hospital grounds.

It took the sheriff’s department eight days to give police CCTV footage, and another search carried out in the meantime failed to include stairwells, Mr Mirkarimi confirmed.

On October 4, a medical staff member called deputies to say that someone had reported seeing a person on a stairway landing.

“There is no indication that anyone was dispatched to that stairwell,” Mr Mirkarimi said.

A hospital worker eventually found the body in a locked stairway of the building on October 8.

While the searches were being carried out, Ms Spalding’s family and friends desperately handed out leaflets and posters asking for help in finding her around the San Francisco Bay area.

The local coroner is yet give a definitive cause of Ms Spalding’s death.