Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Police conclude investigation following disappearance of Owami Davies and conclude there was no racial bias

ESSEX and Met Police forces have concluded an investigation into their procedures and actions following the disappearance of Grays woman Owami Davies, who was eventually found safe after a search lasting several weeks.

Despite complaints it has concluded that there was not racial bias shown in the operation, though a number of mistakes were admitted during the investigation.

During the serach it was revealed that police officers had actually met and talked to Owami, a student nurse, in the early days of the search. However, officers did not realise who she was. It has also been acknowledged that a picture used in publicty as they sought to find her was not of Owami.

The joint Essex and Metropolitan Police Service review found that officers from both forces were in frequent contact with Owami’s family and that Met officers showed compassion and care when they encountered Owami in Croydon on Wednesday, 6 July.

The review also identified several learning points which will be used to improve responses to future missing person investigations.

Met Police Commander Paul Brogden said: “This was the biggest missing person investigation conducted by the Met this year and officers worked tirelessly over several weeks to ensure Owami was found safe and well.

“As with any large policing operation, we have worked with our advisory groups to review our actions. I’m pleased that their feedback was largely positive, both about the officers involved and our handling of the investigation.

“The review did identify some important learning points, including how a missing person enquiry is transferred from one force to another to ensure work isn’t duplicated and any urgent enquiries are carried out as swiftly as possible.

“The Met received 43,040 missing person reports in the year to May 2022. Each investigation has a unique set of circumstances and requires a proportionate policing response. We will use the findings of this report to improve our service to Londoners.”

Owami was reported missing to Essex Police at 12:50am on Wednesday, 6 July. Officers spoke to her family at 8.20 the following morning. This resulted in a delay in Owami’s details being added to the Police National Computer (PNC), which is used to share information with other forces. The review found the delay was due to Essex officers responding to two high-risk missing person investigations and an attempted murder investigation in the same policing district.

Owami was spoken to by Met officers in Croydon on Wednesday, 6 July after they were called by a member of the public. Those involved in the review agreed officers had dealt with Owami compassionately and faced a difficult balance in seeking support for her, while respecting her wish for privacy and request to be left alone. It also confirmed that she had not been circulated on the PNC at the time Met officers spoke with her, meaning they could not have known she had been reported missing. However, as Owami had declined to give her details to those officers, they would in any case not have had sufficient information to properly carry out the PNC enquiry.

During the course of the investigation, the Met published several appeals for information about Owami’s whereabouts. One of these appeals featured an image of a woman who wasn’t Owami. This was also looked at as part of the review. A statement says: “The mistake was due to human error and was corrected as soon as it was noticed. There was no evidence of racial bias. We apologised for the error.”

The statement continues: “We were alive to concerns from the Black community that race was a factor in how officers responded to Owami’s disappearance. Members of the Central Race Independent Advisory Group as well as IAGs in Croydon and West Thurrock were closely linked in with the investigation as it progressed with information shared transparently. They were asked to scrutinise our actions and response and actively challenge us as needed.

The IAGs also took part in the review process and were again encouraged to challenge us. They were satisfied there was no evidence of racial bias. We will be presenting the findings of the review to our Central Race IAG next month.

Commander Brogden added: “The focus of every missing person investigation is to find the person safe and well. I understand there will be cases that result in significant interest from the public and the media, however we must balance the need for information with the person’s right to privacy. We remain in contact with Owami and her family and we wish them well for the future.”

The full case review can be read via this link.

Essex Police released the following statement:

Deputy Chief Constable Andy Prophet said: “In Essex, sadly, every day someone goes missing. Each of these missing people has a different story and each search brings unique investigative challenge. However, what remains the same is our commitment to find them and bring them home safely. That’s what happens in the majority of incidents.

“If we can do something better and improve our response to loved ones and to the person who is missing, we will do it. We will make sure we share information faster with other forces and with the health service or local people.

“Essex Police are still in contact with Owami’s family to support them and to ensure we keep everyone in Essex safe.”

  • *In Essex there were 7,467 reports of missing persons and 5,324 missing individuals in the 12 months to July 2022.
  • * A person can go missing multiple times therefore the number of missing person reports will be higher than the number of missing individuals.
  • *The highest volume of missing person reports received in Essex was in July 2022 (929 reports).
  • *In the 12-months to July 2022 there were 1.4 Missing Person Reports per Missing Individual (average number of times a person goes missing)

*Missing people investigations can be extremely challenging as: sometimes individuals do not want to be found and that can mean our normal lines of enquiry (CCTV, sightings, banking data) may not always be available to us; each investigation and individual is unique with a different set of circumstances; each investigation moves dynamically and the risk categorisation of an individual can change as an investigation progresses and we receive more information and intelligence.

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