Couple, aged 25 and 28, died after they were left in crashed car for three days as police failed to log call

19 September 2023, 00:11 | Updated: 19 September 2023, 01:32

An inquiry got underway into the couple's death on Monday.
An inquiry got underway into the couple's death on Monday. Picture: PA

By Jenny Medlicott

A couple died after they were left undiscovered in their crashed car for three days as police failed to log an emergency call reporting their location, an inquiry has heard.

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Lamara Bell, 25, and John Yuill, 28, died after they were in a car crash on the M9 motorway near Stirling in July 2015.

The pair were left lying in their Renault Clio for three days before they were discovered, despite a farmer who witnessed the incident reporting the crash.

By the time police found the crashed car, Mr Yuill had died and Ms Bell was seriously injured. She later died in hospital.

It was found that a police officer at the force's Bilston Glen call-handling centre failed to log a call from a farmer who informed police that the car was at the bottom of an embankment off the M9 near Stirling.

A fatal accident inquiry (FAI) into their deaths got underway on Monday at Falkirk Sheriff Court and is expected to last about six weeks.

It will determine the cause of the pair’s death and the circumstances in which they took place.

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Ms Bell's family received more than £1m in compensation.
Ms Bell's family received more than £1m in compensation. Picture: PA
Mr Yuill had died by the time police found the car.
Mr Yuill had died by the time police found the car. Picture: PA

Mr Yuill and Ms Bell had been on a camping trip with three others on 4 July 2015, the inquiry heard.

Mr Yuill, who had a provisional driving license, drove the group up to Loch Earn from Falkirk under the supervision of a qualified driver.

But the next day, Mr Yuill and Ms Bell left in the early hours of the morning without the rest of the group and without the supervision of a qualified driver, the inquiry heard.

It also heard that call handler Sgt Brian Henry did not log the call or create an incident report, meaning police did not respond.

The family of the couple reported them missing and helicopter searches were carried out in the area where Mr Yuill’s phone was last connected with the mobile phone mast in Lochearnhead, Crieff, Greenloaning and Auchterarder.

The car was found on the morning of 8 July by a member of the public who called 999 at 09:51.

Then Chief Constable Sir Iain Livingstone apologised on behalf of the force at the time of the incident.

Police didn't discover the pair's bodies for three days.
Police didn't discover the pair's bodies for three days. Picture: Alamy

It was announced two months after the incident that Ms Bell’s family would receive more than £1m in compensation from Police Scotland.

At the High Court in Edinburgh the force pleaded guilty to health and safety failings which “materially contributed” to her death, as it was said she could have survived if she was found sooner.

The case was referred to the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (Pirc) after the couple was found.

An independent review of call handling in Police Scotland’s contact, command and control division resulted in 30 recommendations for improvements in its services.

"Following a thorough and detailed investigation and criminal prosecution this fatal accident inquiry will look at the full circumstances surrounding these tragic deaths and help avoid such an incident happening again,” Procurator fiscal Andy Shanks, who leads on death investigations for the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, said.

"The families of Lamara Bell and John Yuill and their legal representatives will continue to be updated as the inquiry progresses."

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