Update on investigation into police handling of missing person reports prior to vehicle and occupants found in St Mellons

Published: 15 Jun 2023

The Independent Office for Police Conduct’s (IOPC) investigation into police actions following missing person reports relating to five people who were later found with a car off the A48 in the St Mellons area of Cardiff, is continuing.

Eve Smith, Darcy Ross, and Rafel Jeanne sadly died in the incident. Sophie Russon and Shane Loughlin were seriously injured. The Volkswagen Tiguan they had been travelling in was discovered just after midnight on Monday March 6, 46 hours after the last contact from, or sighting of, the group. The families of the three young women had all reported them missing on the evening of Saturday 4 March.

We are gathering statements from relevant police personnel involved, 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 for the reports.  We are reviewing internal communication between the police officers and staff identified as being involved, along with CCTV from relevant police stations. We are speaking to the National Police Air Service about the involvement of a police helicopter during the search. We are considering the missing person policies of both Gwent Police and South Wales Police, along with relevant national police guidance. Investigators have met with the families to understand the contact they had with police and the situation they encountered at the collision scene.

Based on the evidence we have reviewed so far, we have served a notice at the level of misconduct on a Gwent Police officer concerning their review of the missing persons’ logs and relevant risk assessments. We are also considering whether the age of the missing persons impacted on the officer’s decision making. Such notices advise an officer they are subject to investigation and are kept under review. They do not necessarily mean that any disciplinary proceedings will follow

IOPC Director David Ford said “Our thoughts and sympathies remain with the families and friends of those who tragically lost their lives and to those who were left seriously injured by this incident. We know that the awful events which unfolded across the weekend in early March have impacted many in the local community.

“Our investigators have met with all the families involved and we are in contact with them on a regular basis, to keep them updated on the progress of our investigation. IOPC staff have also met with a number of local community leaders and elected officials, to explain our role and the scope of our investigation. We have gathered a significant amount of evidence since our investigation began and we will ensure that our investigation continues to be thorough and timely. While we are investigating an officer for potential misconduct, it is only at the end of our investigation once we have established all the facts that we will make a decision as to whether the officer has any case to answer.”  

The IOPC investigation is examining both Gwent and South Wales Police’s response to the missing person reports made between Saturday 4 and Sunday 5 March. In particular, we are investigating:

  • the actions and decisions of the police officers and control room staff dealing with the missing person reports, up to the discovery of the vehicle and the five missing persons
  • whether the missing person reports were appropriately risk assessed, reviewed and resourced
  • whether police action was in accordance with the relevant legislation and local and national guidance, policies and procedures regarding missing person
  • the contact and communication between the police and the families of the deceased and injured missing persons before the vehicle was discovered.

The investigation will also aim to establish whether the actions or inactions of the two police forces contributed to the deaths and serious injuries sustained in the incident.

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