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Police caught watching Netflix in missing woman’s home

Two officers were filmed on CCTV watching TV and using dumbbells at a home in Wigan.

CCTV grab of the police in Abbygail Lawton's home. (Abbygail Lawton / SWNS)
CCTV grab of the police in Abbygail Lawton's home. (Abbygail Lawton / SWNS)

A woman has slammed two police officers after she caught them on CCTV watching Netflix and lifting weights in her home while she was listed as missing.

Abbygail Lawton, 21, was suffering a mental health crisis when paramedics raised the alarm about her welfare and called in the police. Two officers were filmed on her sofa watching TV and using dumbbells at her home in Wigan after being told to “chill at the house” in case she came home.

But while bosses have since spoken to the two officers about their conduct, they have concluded they did not breach standards of professional behaviour. Greater Manchester Police's (GMP) Professional Standards Branch said the pair "should reflect on and learn from the complaint".

Mum-of-one Abbygail was missing for several hours on 3 January before two other officers found her. She was then “arrested for wasting police time” and spent 12 hours in custody before being released without charge.

CCTV shows police officers watching TV in Abbygails house while she was missing. (Abbygail Lawton / SWNS
CCTV shows police officers watching TV in Abbygails house while she was missing. (Abbygail Lawton / SWNS

'Disappointed and ashamed'

When she finally returned home and re-watched CCTV footage, she saw the two male officers making themselves comfy in her home. She was shocked to see the men settling down on her settee with their feet up while scrolling through her TV.

In her lounge, they remarked about how she had recently watched The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas and started working out. At one point, they even looked straight into the camera to say: “Hello Abbygail, I know you're watching us.”

Abbygail said: “You hear them say 'we could so with watching something like Come Dine With Me' before the other one sees Dog's Behaving Badly and starts saying how 'it's quite good'. They then choose something on Netflix and start watching TV.

"One of the officers then gets my dumbbell and starts doing weights, which you can see in the footage, before sitting back down.”

Abbygail was in woodland when she was alerted on her phone that there was activity in her home and said she was furious that they had invaded her privacy.

She added: “I'm disappointed and ashamed by the two officers sitting watching TV, the comments that they made and how they acted at my property. I've not given them consent to be in my house or watch TV or use my gym equipment.

“It was as though they were mocking me and taking the mick while I was out in the woods in a crisis."

Abbygail Lawton is angry at the officers. (Abbygail Lawton / SWNS)
Abbygail Lawton is angry at the officers. (Abbygail Lawton / SWNS)

Images could 'undermine public trust'

A spokesman for GMP said it was "understandable" that publication of the CCTV images "without explanation could undermine public trust and confidence". But they added that officers were required to remain at the property in case she returned as a safeguarding measure while a wider search was carried out.

The force said in a statement: "During the assessment, the PSD reviewed all available records and footage and spoke to those involved. In consideration of the full circumstances, it was determined that – whilst the two officers should reflect on and learn from the complaint - their behaviour did not breach the standards of professional behaviour.

"The complainant has been informed of this decision and her right to request a review of the outcome – should she wish to do so.”

A spokesperson for GMP’s Professional Standards Branch added: “Greater Manchester is a busy jurisdiction and there is always a 999 call to respond to so it’s understandable that the publication of these CCTV images without explanation could undermine public trust and confidence.

"What the CCTV leaves unsaid is that the officers’ attendance at the property over a prolonged period of time had been agreed with those leading the operation to ensure that the female was safeguarded should she return to the property, as she had indicated she was trying to.

"The officers have been spoken to and understand that, whilst the television had been left on and dumbbells left out, they should have refrained from watching it or using them whilst they were deployed to the location.”