Essex

Missing man found dead after police refused a loan of thermal imaging kit

Lee Evans Image copyright Essex Police
Image caption Lee Evans was found dead the day after Essex Police were refused the loan of thermal imaging cameras by Essex Fire Service

A missing man was found dead a day after Essex Fire Service refused to lend police thermal imaging kit to help them find him, it has emerged.

The request was made by Essex Police on 13 August to help their search for 23-year-old Lee Evans, who went missing from Stanford-le-Hope.

His body was found in Orsett the following day.

Essex Fire Service said the refusal to lend police the cameras was the result of a "misunderstanding".

The fire service uses high end ultra-portable thermal imaging cameras which help officers see in the dark and through thick smoke to find people in need.

Each device costs thousands of pounds.

'Remedied'

It is understood Essex Police periodically asks for help or equipment in dealing with missing people searches.

But the request for the thermal imaging kit to help find Mr Evans was refused, the BBC learned.

Mr Evans was subsequently found hanged in woodland in Orsett. An inquest has been opened and will be heard in November.

Essex Police said it had "assigned" an officer to investigate the "circumstances around the request for thermal imaging equipment, and that request being declined".

"Learning from that has been shared with the fire service," he said.

A spokeswoman for the fire service said: "There has been a recent policy change within Essex fire service, where the search for missing persons is beyond the national role map for firefighters.

"However, this recent policy change was never intended to deny the use of our vehicles and equipment to assist with police incidents such as this.

"This misunderstanding has subsequently been remedied."

'Surprises me'

Alan Chin-Shaw, secretary of the Essex branch of the FBU, said: "If there is a piece of kit there that the police obviously need then it surprises me that they don't just get five or six units (imaging cameras) and keep them in the main police stations."

He said while he had no objection to police borrowing kit from the fire service, "they should not be taken off operational fire appliances".

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