THE death of a man after a night out in Batley may not have been an accident, his sister believes.
Peter Scott died after breaking his neck on a public stairwell between Commercial Street and the Tesco car park in January last year, but Marilyn Merritt claims police and coroners officers could have overlooked crucial evidence and bungled the investigation.
An inquest heard Mr Scott, 66, of Ealand Road, Batley, died from a cervical neck fracture following a fall – but family and friends believe it’s possible he was robbed or attacked and then pushed down the stairs.
Mr Scott lived alone and was known to many on the Batley social scene. His funeral service at Dewsbury Moor Crematorium was attended by hundreds of people.
He had been enjoying an evening out on January 29, drinking in town centre pubs. Mrs Merritt, of Dewsbury, last saw him alive at 7.30pm when they left the Union Rooms in Hick Lane.
It is believed he walked along Commercial Street, and Coroner Peter Merchant was told he was discovered with his trousers around his ankles on the unlit concrete staircase by a member of the public at 11.45pm. Officers think he had been attempting to relieve himself and fell.
Tesco staff called emergency services but he was declared dead at 12.17am on January 30.
Mrs Merritt, however, claims that Peter may have been targeted by a robber as jewellery and personal items she knew he was carrying, were missing when she was later handed his personal effects.
She also believes that some criminals have been known to pull down victims’ trousers in order to immobilise them during and after a robbery.
An alleged blood stain seen at the top of the stairwell could also point to Mr Scott being attacked before his plunge down the stairs.
No public appeal for witnesses was made and Mrs Merritt believes police did not search for CCTV evidence which could have helped clarify the circumstances of his death until weeks afterwards, when it was too late to retrieve key footage from relevant systems on Commercial Street.
She also says that for months she was denied access to a full autopsy report and post-mortem photos of her brother, and there were discrepancies and errors on some witness and police statements.
She is now considering making an official complaint to the Independent Office for Police Conduct over the investigation of her brother’s death.
“We just want to know the truth of what happened and to get justice for him,” Mrs Merritt said. A series of frustrating administrative errors led to the inquest into Mr Scott’s death being postponed several times, until it was finally heard in Bradford last month. The autopsy report said that Mr Scott had alcohol in his system equivalent to drinking six pints of beer.
Det Sgt David Taylor, of West Yorkshire Police, said there were no suspicious circumstances or third party involvement. Coroner Peter Merchant agreed and concluded his death occurred as the result of an accident.
Detective Chief Insp Fiona Gaffney, of Kirklees District Police, said: “We respect the decision of the Coroner in this case and as a force will co-operate fully with any investigation by the IOPC.”
A spokesman for the coroner’s office said: “The inquest to which this story relates has now been concluded. It would therefore not be appropriate to offer comment.”