An officer from the police force that has come under fire for its handling of the search for Nicola Bulley has been accused of gross misconduct.
Lancashire Police has been widely criticised for its handling of the case after revealing Bulley’s personal struggles with alcohol and menopause. A former victims' commissioner branded it a "dreadful error" while the home secretary Suella Braverman has demanded an explanation over the sharing of her private details.
Now it has emerged that an officer from the force, whose identity has not been revealed, faces investigation over the case of young mother Kiena Dawes, who took her own life in July last year following a domestic abuse claim.
Dawes, 23, was reported missing just hours before she was hit by a train in Garstang, Lancashire, and pronounced dead at the scene last July.
Following her death, her family alleged she had been the victim of domestic abuse which caused her to take her own life and claimed she was “let down” by Lancashire Police.
The police watchdog said an officer from the force now faces investigation because a man was released on bail after being arrested on suspicion of assaulting Dawes 11 days before she died.
The investigation is ongoing but the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) confirmed the officer has now been served notice and faces potential misconduct proceedings.
Watch: Home secretary awaiting result of police review of handling of Nicola Bulley case
An IOPC spokesperson said: “Our investigation into prior contact between Lancashire Constabulary and Kiena Dawes, before her death on 22 July, 2022 continues.
“We have been looking at the police response when Miss Dawes was reported missing, as well as reports that she had been the victim of assaults.
“Having obtained and reviewed a number of statements from witnesses, to understand the nature of the contact between officers and Miss Dawes, an officer has been served notice for gross misconduct in relation to their actions leading up to a man being released on bail earlier in July last year.
“This does not necessarily mean that misconduct proceedings will follow.”
A spokesman for Lancashire Police confirmed the IOPC investigation and would not comment further while it is ongoing.
Dawes was reported missing after she left her nine-month-old daughter, Marnie, with a close friend and disappeared on 22 July last year.
Her body was recovered from train tracks as friends and family conducted a frantic search for her in nearby streets and alleyways.
Lancashire Police confirmed a 28-year-old man from Fleetwood had been arrested on suspicion of assaulting her on 11 July, days before she took her life.
The man was released on bail pending further enquiries and no charges were brought against him.
Her family claimed Dawes had been living in fear and had repeatedly sought the help of police in the weeks leading up her death.
They revealed photos showing her looking bloodied and bruised following an alleged assault which happened after police had fitted panic alarms in her home.
The investigation into the officer comes after Lancashire Police faced heavy criticism for the way it handled the Bulley case in nearby St Michael's On Wyre.
Former victims’ commissioner Dame Vera Baird said she believed Lancashire Constabulary had made a “dreadful error” in disclosing the missing mother-of-two’s vulnerabilities.
She also said she is worried it will stop people from making complaints in the future and wondered if such details would have been released if she was a man.
The Information Commissioner has also said he will be asking Lancashire Police about its decision to disclose Ms Bulley’s struggles with alcohol and HRT.
Lancashire Police has also confirmed it is to conduct an internal review into its investigation.
The IOPC is also conducting an investigation into contact Lancashire Police had with Bulley before she went missing, confirming it would be looking into the "welfare check" police made at the family home on 10 January.
Police did not reveal they had been in contact with Bulley prior to her disappearance until almost three weeks into the case, when they also disclosed "vulnerabilities" about the missing woman.
For confidential support at times of emotional stress, contact The Samaritans at any time by calling 116 123 for free or emailing email@example.com.