POLICE took 24 hours to find a vulnerable mentally-ill drug addict who was lying dead in his home, a watchdog has found.

A damning report from the independent Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (Pirc) has found a series of shortcomings in they way officers pursued a missing persons report for the man.

Pirc has recommended retraining for officers involved but is unable to say whether the delay made any difference to the death of the man, who was 37.

The watchdog launched its investigation after the man, who has not been named, was discovered in his flat more than 24 hours after being reported missing by care staff at around 5.15pm on October 9 last year.

Care staff, who visited the man twice a day, became concerned for his welfare after they were unable to make contact with him.

The man had been reported missing on 22 previous occasions, but was said to have always been found by police or returned home voluntarily within hours.

Care staff were under instructions to report the man missing if he had not been seen for 24 hours.

After the missing person report to police, the sergeant dealing with the case made initial inquiries and was told by a constable that a member of the concierge staff at the man’s flat said he had seen him at the property between 2am and 4am that day.

The Pirc investigation found the sergeant discussed the matter with an inspector and concluded the man did not fit Police Scotland’s criteria for a missing person, and it was decided that no further action would be taken.

However, the review concluded the inspector did not check all appropriate steps had been taken to trace the man, including going to his flat, before agreeing to the sergeant’s decision.

A second missing person report was made by care staff at around 2.20pm on October 10 when they were unable to gain entry to the man’s flat. Pirc, which anonymises its findings, did not reveal where the man lived or name any of the officers it criticised.

The sergeant sent officers to the man’s home but when they arrived at around 4pm, they were unable to establish contact with him.

The officers forced entry at around 6pm, and they found the man dead in his bedroom.

A subsequent post-mortem examination and toxicology analysis established the cause of death as drug intoxication.

The Pirc report concluded the sergeant in charge of handling the incident should have sent officers to the man’s flat when he was first reported missing rather than waiting for the second report to be raised the following day.

It noted it was not possible to determine whether the man’s death could have been prevented.

Recommendations were made that all officers, with particular reference to the sergeant, should receive appropriate training and guidance on missing person reports.

The commissioner recommended that the inspector involved in the case be reminded of the importance of checking all steps have been taken before agreeing with a course of action.

The report also recommended that the constable who passed on information from concierge staff should be reminded of the need to note personal details of anyone giving information during inquiries.

Police Scotland Superintendent

Hilary Sloan said: “We accept the commissioner’s recommendations and corrective advice will be given to the officers concerned.”

In 2017/2018 Police Scotland dealt with more than 22,000 so-called ‘misper’ investigations involving 12,000 people.

A quarter of all cases featured people, such as the man in the Pirc case, who had disappeared more than 10 times before.

Nearly a quarter involved those who, again like the man in the Pirc case, had

a history of mental health problems.