A TOP-LEVEL probe has criticised police for taking several days to find a man’s body in a van parked in a layby.

Despite being informed about the van by members of the public on three separate occasions, police did not appear on the scene until three days after the first report.

A post mortem examination revealed that David Penman, 46, died from carbon monoxide poisoning from inhaling the products of a small petrol generator found in the van.

The Police Investigations & Review Commissioner (PIRC) has identified failings in the way police responded to reports from concerned members of the public in December 2016.

Following the first two reports, a police officer in the Bilston Glen Area Control Room (ACR) checked records and found the van had not been stolen and was up to date with its MOT, insurance and tax. The officer decided police were not required to attend and closed the incident.

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A third call was made on 15 December to report concerns about an articulated lorry parked on the same road. Officers were unable to find the lorry but came found Mr Penman’s body slumped in the driver’s seat of his van.

In her report to the Chief Constable, PIRC Commissioner Kate Frame found that the ACR controller dealing with the first two reports followed procedure – when a vehicle that has a current MOT, is taxed and insured, is not causing an obstruction and has not been reported stolen, police do not require to attend.

However, the ACR controller did not follow procedures that state a “vehicle which has been stationary for a significant amount of time” should be treated as abandoned.

The ACR controller should have contacted the local authority to report the abandoned van, and contacted the vehicle’s owners to make further inquiries. Had they done so, concerns about Mr Penman’s ongoing depression and welfare may have been discovered.

The Commissioner said: “It would be unrealistic to expect the police to investigate each report of an abandoned vehicle.

“However, in this case had the repeated concerns expressed by members of the public been acted on earlier, additional information would have been available which may have prompted officers to locate and search the van in the layby sooner.”

In a statement, Mr Penman’s family said: “David was a loving father, son and brother and it has been very difficult for our family to come to terms with his death.

“We will never know for sure whether David would still be alive if more prompt action had been taken. We hope that Police Scotland will take these recommendations on board and that valuable lessons have been learned.”

Assistant Chief Constable Nelson Telfer (Service and Protection) said: “Our thoughts remain with the family of Mr Penman and all those affected by his death.

“So far, in 2017, Police Scotland has received in excess of 16,000 reports of abandoned vehicles, around 60 every day. The vast majority of these, like Mr Penman’s vehicle, when checked on our systems are taxed, insured and legally parked.

“Following an internal review of this incident, discussions have taken place with Local Policing, C3 Division and Professional Standards and updated guidance has been issued to call handlers and Area Control Room staff to ensure appropriate actions are taken when dealing with a report of an abandoned vehicle."

In July 2015, PIRC probed the circumstances of the M9 accident that killed Lamara Bell, 25, and her partner John Yuill, who were found in a car three days after it crashed. Police had failed to follow up a call received about the crash.

PIRC are currently investigating how police handled the search for Arnold Mouat, 64, who was found dead in his home in Bo’ness in August following a four-week search of the area.