A police officer failed to inform a couple that their trainee vicar son had died and then allegedly lied about it claiming they were out when he called, a disciplinary hearing has been told.
Pc Philip Aiston was given the task of visiting the Rev Terry McGann and his wife, Christine, in July 2021 to pass on the news that their 37-year-old son, Martin, had died.
But he did not attend their address in Whitley Bay, North Tyneside, and they only discovered the news when a bishop rang up the following day to express his condolences.
The hearing was told during his shift Pc Aiston visited a McDonald’s restaurant, went to hospital and also attended an incident in a nearby town.
Pc Aiston claims he went to the couple’s home in the early hours of the morning of July 20 2021 to inform them of their son’s drug-related death but got no answer.
But giving evidence, Mrs McGann said the officer could not have visited their home when he claimed because it was so hot that night neither she or her husband could sleep.
Martin McGann, a former barrister, who was training to be an Anglican priest, was found dead in his dormitory at Ripon Theological College, Cuddesdon, Oxfordshire.
Thames Valley Police passed the job of breaking the news to his parents to their local Northumbria force, sending the details just after 6pm on July 19 2021.
Pc Aiston initially claimed he attended the house at 10.30pm, but subsequently said he must have been mistaken, suggesting it was more likely to be around 1.30am the following morning.
The disciplinary hearing was told that a week later he went to the couple’s home to check out what the front door looked like, putting in a report soon after that it was “brown UPVC”.
But giving evidence at the disciplinary hearing in Houghton-le-Spring, Tyne and Wear, Mrs McGann insisted the officer had not attended their address.
She said: “It was a hot, sticky, humid night and we could not sleep. The windows were open and it was too hot to sleep, we just sat there.
“We noticed every car that drove up the street. I’d hop out of bed and look out of the window and report back which of our neighbours had arrived home late or was getting out of a taxi.
“It was three or four the following morning before I eventually went to sleep when the temperature dropped.”
She added: “If anyone had knocked on the door or rang the bell we’d have heard it.”
Pc denies breach of professional standards
Data recovered from Pc Aiston’s police car and GPS information showed he did not visit the McGanns’ street.
His colleague Pc Nick Patton, who he was working alongside that night, told bosses there had been no discussion about Pc Aiston having to make a bereavement call.
Pc Aiston says in his defence that his car’s telematics system may not have been working because he had the radio turned off.
Pc Aiston denies breaching the professional standards for police officers, including his duties and responsibilities, and failing to keep standards of honesty and integrity. The hearing continues.
An inquest in November 2021 heard how Martin McGann, 37, practised in family law at a chambers in London before deciding on a career change and enrolling at Ripon Theology College to be ordained into the church.
The hearing into his death at Oxfordshire coroner’s court heard how he hid a secret drug habit while living and studying at the college.
It resulted in Mr McGann ingesting methamphetamine when he wrongly thought police were going to arrest him.
Asst coroner Nicholas Graham told the court there was insufficient evidence to prove that Mr McGann had intended to take his own life before recording a verdict of drug-related death.