HC Deb 06 July 1927 vol 208 cc1254-6

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he has completed his inquiries into the case of a girl reported to have been drowned, whose body was found at Invergowrie on 12th June; why the body was conveyed to the grave on a common lorry covered by sacking or tarpaulin, having been left till burial in an old shed; whether the cause of death was ascertained by a post-mortem examination; whether there is any evidence suggesting that the girl was under the influence of drink or drugged; why a photograph was not taken; and whether the police description gave details about the condition of her teeth, whether artificial or natural, and the value of her rings, if any?


asked the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland whether he is aware that a girl was found drowned at Invergowrie on 12th June, her body kept in an outhouse for a week, and then buried unidentified and without being photographed; and whether he is satisfied that all proper and possible steps have been taken by the authorities?


I will answer these questions together.

I have obtained information on the points raised in the questions. I am informed that the body of the woman concerned was found on 12th June on the foreshore at Invergowrie and was removed by the police to an unoccupied lockfast shed and examined by a doctor who certified that death was due to drowning. The shed, according to my information, was suitable for the purposes of safety and decency and also for purposes of identification. A description of the body and clothing was given by the police to the Press reporters and appeared in the newspapers. I am informed that the description did not give details about the teeth, which were natural and in good condition, but that it did refer to a ring worn by the deceased. A number of persons viewed the body but failed to identify it. The case was reported by the police to the Procurator-Fiscal, who reached the opinion that the case was one of suicide, and that there was nothing suspicions about it.

A post-mortem examination in the form of dissection was not considered necessary. There was no evidence suggesting that the woman was under the influence of drink or had been drugged. A photograph was not taken because in the opinion of the police such a photograph would have been of no use for identification purposes in this case. After the Procurator-Fiscal was satisfied that there were no suspicious circumstances, the body was handed over to the sanitary authorities and buried on 16th June with the authority of a direction by a Justice of the Peace in accordance with Section 69, Sub-section (1), of the Public Health (Scotland) Act, 1897. I am informed that the body was conveyed to the grave in a plain black coffin carried on a lorry and covered with an ordinary van cover. I see no reason for holding that proper steps were not taken in this case, but I think that the general question of taking a photograph for purposes of subsequent identification merits further consideration, and I propose to examine that question further in consultation with my right hon. Friend the Lord Advocate.


May I ask whether the Lord Advocate is considering the representations which have been made to him on this matter by leading public authorities in the district?


Oh, yes. The Lord Advocate has been in communication with the Procurator-Fiscal on this matter.


Can the right hon. Gentleman say why the body was not removed to the nearest mortuary instead of being kept in this old shed?


I am not aware as to whether it was possible to remove the body to the nearest mortuary. I have made particular inquiries as to the arrangements made and as to the suitability of the place to which the body was taken, and I am quite satisfied.

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