Missing persons policy questioned

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AN inquest into the death of a pensioner whose body lay undiscovered in his flat for months has led to a call by the coroner for changes to the police’s missing person policy.

Despite being called twice to investigate his welfare, officers failed to find George Catley’s remains.

When his mummified body was eventually found wrapped in a duvet at his home in Chisworth Close, Leigh, it is thought he could have been lying there for at least eight weeks.

Entry to his flat had not been forced because of some confusion over whether to class the 65-year-old dad-of-five as a missing person.

Police first received a call expressing concern for Mr Catley’s welfare in March 2010 when a neighbour rang to say he had not been seen for several weeks.

It was reported that his flat appeared to have no electricity and was being used as a doss house by homeless drinkers.

One had even arranged to cash Mr Catley’s welfare payments on his behalf at a nearby shop in exchange for sleeping there.

But officers did not force entry to the flat or report him missing after another neighbour said he thought Mr Catley may be at the pub.

Police returned a month later after another call was made but after forcing entry to the property failed to spot Mr Catley’s body under a duvet and pillow in a chair.

Bolton Coroner’s Court heard Mr Catley, himself a heavy drinker who had previously been homeless, had been ‘living a street life’ in the flat.

Officers found knee-deep rubbish, rotting food and faeces, which could have masked the smell of his body.

The property was boarded up until April 26 2010, when environmental health were called because of the stench and flies coming from it. Mr Catley’s mummified remains were then discovered in the chair.

The inquest heard it was likely he had been dead since February and had probably died of natural causes.

Sgt William Halliday, one of the officers who searched the flat said: “I saw the chair with all the stuff on it but because of the way the stuff was piled up it didn’t look like someone was in the chair.”

An investigation by GMP’s professional standards branch found no evidence of misconduct by officers. Although they made mistakes, it was accepted officers acted in good faith.

Recording an open verdict, Coroner Jennifer Leeming said changes should be made to GMP’s missing person’s policy to make it clearer to officers what to do when someone is reported as missing.