IOPC investigation into police handling of missing person reports prior to vehicle and occupants found in Cardiff at advanced stage

Published: 29 Feb 2024

The Independent Office for Police Conduct’s (IOPC) investigation into police actions after a group of young people were reported missing, prior to a car and its driver and passengers being found in the St Mellons area of Cardiff, is at an advanced stage.

Three members of the group, Eve Smith, Darcy Ross and Rafel Jeanne, sadly died while two others suffered serious injuries. They were discovered inside a Volkswagen Tiguan shortly after midnight on 6 March 2023, in a wooded area off the A48, almost two days after any of the group had been heard from. Relatives of the women involved had reported each of them missing on 4 March. 

Since we began our enquiries, we have gathered and analysed a significant amount of evidence and we have served notices on seven Gwent Police officers, advising them that they are subject to investigation. 

In recent months we have widened the scope of our investigation, following consideration of detailed complaints made by the families of the young people involved. We are undertaking additional work to investigate those complaints which concern the police handling of the missing person investigations and communication with the families at the scene of the collision.

In terms of the disciplinary notices served: 

  • two officers concerning their review of missing person reports – one officer for potential misconduct and another, who was previously served at the level of misconduct, now for possible gross misconduct.  
  • one officer for potential gross misconduct concerning their face-to-face communication with family members at a police station and how they dealt with the information received.   
  • two officers at the level of gross misconduct concerning whether or not they carried out searches of the homes of two of the people reported missing - one of these officers is also under criminal investigation for allegedly falsifying their witness statement.
  • two officers at the level of misconduct concerning alleged remarks made at the collision scene.

The serving of these notices does not necessarily mean disciplinary or criminal proceedings will follow.                                                                                              

IOPC Director David Ford said “Our thoughts and sympathies remain with the families and friends of the young people who tragically lost their lives, those who were left seriously injured, and everyone affected by this incident.

“Since the start of our investigation, we have expanded our work to investigate a number of detailed complaints from the families affected. As a result, seven Gwent Police officers have been advised that they are under investigation. We continue to analyse a significant volume of evidence and assess whether police actions following the missing person reports were in accordance with local and national policies and procedures. At the end of our investigation, we will make decisions as to whether any officer should face disciplinary proceedings and whether any matters should be referred to the Crown Prosecution Service.

“While we have carried out additional work to address the concerns raised, we will conclude our investigation as soon as possible. It is important for all concerned that our independent investigation is comprehensive and thorough.”

In the course of the investigation, we have carried out interviews with and taken statements from family members, relevant police personnel including officers who attended the collision scene, those who took the missing person reports, control room staff, and officers who reviewed and determined the risk assessment gradings.  

  • Gwent Police
  • South Wales Police
  • Death and serious injury