Northern Ireland

PSNI 'will learn' from death of Insp Peter Magowan

An inquest into the death of a police inspector who shot himself in a police station has heard the PSNI "will learn lessons" from the case.

Insp Peter Magowan had recently returned from stress-related sick leave when he took his own life with a gun he had removed from a colleague's locker.

Insp's Magowan's access to his own personal protection weapon had been removed months earlier, after he was diagnosed with severe depression.

He died in Ballymoney station in 2016.

'Stolen weapon'

Outlining his findings, the coroner said the PSNI did its "utmost" to accommodate the officer, and that his death "was not foreseeable".

However, he added there had been "lost opportunities" and a "failure in communication" in the police investigation to find Insp Magowan's body and the weapon he used to take his own life.

The inquest previously heard that the 55-year-old officer's body lay undiscovered in Ballymoney police station for nine hours before it was found by a specialist PSNI search team in April 2016.

An earlier search by police officers in the station had failed to locate him.

It was previously heard that the locker room where Insp Magowan was found had been sealed off by police as a crime scene on the morning of his death, after it was discovered that a weapon and one round of ammunition had been stolen from an officer's locker.

The coroner said the fact that senior officers had not been told Insp Magowan had missed two morning meetings on the day he died, and the failure to search the locker room earlier in the day, had led to an "unacceptable delay" in finding his body.

'Immense pressure'

The inquest heard that Insp Magowan had been absent from work due to work-related stress for a total of 391 days during the years 2009, 2011, 2015 and 2016.

It was heard that he had suffered stomach and bowel problems and had difficulty sleeping after telling his wife he was struggling with "immense pressure and stress" in his job.

The inquest was told that on Sunday nights, he would get only two-and-a-half hours sleep because of his "dread" at having to go to work the next morning.

During his findings, the coroner called for better communication between GPs and the PSNI's Occupational Health and Wellbeing team.

He said that Insp Magowan "should have been assessed as unfit for work" after describing "troubling symptoms" relating to his depression to health professionals weeks before his death.

He also called for "more robust action" to be taken around the security of weapons in police stations.

It was also heard that on the morning, of his death, Insp Magowan had called the police pensions office to inquire about payments to his family, should he die in active service.

The staff member he spoke to did not ask his name.

Legal counsel for the PSNI told the coroner: "Elements of your findings will be taken back and lessons will be learnt."

'Greatly missed'

The coroner paid tribute to the "dignity" shown by the officer's family during the inquest.

"Nothing will ever bring him back, but I hope a lot of questions from the Magowan family have been answered," he told them.

In a statement following the inquest, the family thanked the coroner and said: "Peter was a fantastic father and husband and he is greatly missed by all of us."

They added that they believe his death was "wholly preventable" and said the inquest showed the PSNI had "missed a series of important opportunities" spanning many months.

"The coroner's findings have also included numerous critical comments about procedures within PSNI that we hope will be acted upon immediately, in order to avoid any other family having to endure a tragedy such as this", the statement said.

Following the verdict, the PSNI said Insp Magowan was a "highly esteemed and well-respected colleague".

ACC Alan Todd said: "We take our responsibility seriously in supporting our people through the implications and consequences the difficult operating environment of policing sometimes brings."

He added that the PSNI will "fully review the information presented over the course of the inquest to identify and implement any further actions as necessary".

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