Damning watchdog investigation finds police failed murdered Lanarkshire woman

A damning investigation by police watchdogs has found cops failed to act on a warning that could have saved the life of murdered East Kilbride woman, Louise Aitchison.

Officers admitted failing to tell the 33-year-old dental nurse about her partner Daryll Paterson’s history of violence against women for five weeks before he brutally murdered her in her West Mains home on April 28, 2020.

Paterson admitted killing Louise by strangling her and then slashing her throat. The 37-year-old was convicted of her murder of her and sentenced to 18 years in prison last January.

It has now emerged that the police failed to act on a recommendation to formally warn Louise – a vulnerable woman already at risk – of an abusive partner.

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Police Scotland has apologized to Louise’s grieving mum Caroline Lyon for its “shortcomings” but so far there has been no disciplinary action taken against the officers involved.

Speaking out about the catalog of police failures in her daughter’s case to The Sunday Post, Caroline said the police “might as well have put a target on her back”.

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East Kilbride’s MP, Dr Lisa Cameron, described the case as “disturbing” and slammed Police Scotland for letting down Louise’s grieving family “so many times”.

Louise had just been moved to a new home in Park Avenue, East Kilbride, after being stalked and attacked by another man, but she was soon targeted by Paterson.

The couple met while walking their dogs and began living together at her home in March 2019

When police visited the flat on March 24, 2020, they believed she could be at risk given his history of violence and domestic abuse.

An officer submitted a “Power to Tell” application under the Domestic Abuse Disclosure Scheme which allows potential victims of abusers known to police to be warned of their violent history.

However, an officer and a detective inspector wrongly assessed the risk as low and failed to record the risk assessment on the database.

More than two weeks later, it was agreed Louise should be told about Paterson’s history but officers had failed to include her current mobile number and address when recording the decision on the database. They also failed to give it an incident number or make clear the disclosure was still outstanding to anyone accessing the report.

The mistakes would ensure that she was never contacted and never warned, putting her in grave danger.

Darryl Paterson was sentenced to 18 years for the murder of his former partner Louise Aitchison

A 999 call made by Louise on that fateful day of April 28, 2020, led to officers removing Paterson from her flat but there was no warning about his history.

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Within an hour of leaving, Paterson returned with a knife inflicting horrific injuries on Louise, ending her life.

Five days after the murder, the Lord Advocate asked the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (Pirc) to investigate police contact with Louise before her death.

The watchdog concluded that Police Scotland had warned her about Darryl Paterson as agreed she “may have taken action to avoid him and ensure her safety, possibly preventing her death.”

Now, nearly two years after her murder, the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service are considering a Fatal Accident Inquiry.

Dr Cameron said the local community continues to remain both traumatized and angry over the murder of Louise Aitchison, who was known to so many people in the town due to her years working for a local dentist.

She said: “This is one of the most disturbing cases I’ve ever had to deal with, not least because of the huge number of failures already admitted by Police Scotland, but also because of the number of unanswered questions which remain over how this could possibly have happened to a vulnerable and traumatized young woman who had already been moved for her own safety.

A heavy police presence on the scene at Park Terrace

“I will be writing to the Justice Minister to ask hard questions about how a system supposed to protect and prevent cases like this from ever happening in the first place, managed to let Louise and her grieving family down not just once, but so many times .

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“It is unacceptable that the authorities who were supposed to protect Louise let her down so badly that she lost her life. I believe this whole case merits a full inquiry involving all agencies who played a part in what happened.”

A spokesperson for the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service said: “COPFS has received a report from the Police Investigations & Review Commissioner (PIRC) and it is under consideration by the Scottish Fatalities Investigation Unit.

“The investigation is ongoing and the family will continue to be kept updated in relation to any significant developments.”

Chief Superintendent Alan Waddell, Local Policing Commander for Police Scotland, confirmed police met with Louise’s family and apologized for “shortcomings” in relation to the disclosure of information to Louise before her death.

He said: “Although we decided to pro-actively tell Louise about Paterson’s past offending, the information was never delivered. We do not know what Louise would have done with this information but she should have been given it.

“We have reviewed the circumstances, which were investigated by the PIRC under the Crown direction, and improved our systems and procedures to ensure we pass on disclosures under the scheme quickly and effectively.

“The Disclosure Scheme for Domestic Abuse Scotland is an important mechanism which has given thousands of people the information they need to make informed decisions about their relationships.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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