THE parents of a student found dead on a beach after being allowed to wander off by police have spoken of their loss and desperate need for answers.
Scott Calder, 23, died soon after being taken into the care of officers, who were told he was at risk after drinking too much at a beer festival, but then left alone at a bus stop.
His parents, Brian and Karen, have now spoken of their grief and dismay at Police Scotland’s actions, before and after their son’s death.
Visiting the beach at Longniddry Bents, East Lothian, where Scott’s body was found exactly three weeks ago, Mr Calder said: “My son was an amazing young man.
“I spent more than 20 years in the military but having to arrange a funeral for my son, scatter his ashes and tell my two other sons their big brother is dead? Those are the hardest things I have ever done.
“Not only was he my son, he was my best friend. I was with Scott almost every day for four weeks before his death, and I am so grateful for that experience.”
Mr Calder said the family’s agony had been sharpened by the unanswered questions around the tragedy. We revealed last week how police officers had picked up rugby player Scott following an Oktoberfest event at Gosford House, Longniddry, on Saturday October 13. They had been alerted by a member of the public, who saw him walking in the middle of a pitch-black road where the speed limit is 60mph, and feared he was at risk.
After picking him up and trying in vain to establish where Scott lived or where he was going, the officers say they dropped him at a bus-stop three miles away around 11.20pm. His body was found on the beach a mile and a half away at 7.45am the next morning.
Mr Calder, a decorated army veteran and bomb disposal expert, said he was told the person who raised the alarm about Scott’s safety had sent the police a short video of him walking on the coastal road. But, he said, police have refused to let him see it, citing privacy legislation.
He said: “I have been told someone sent a three-second video to Police Scotland of Scott, but I am not allowed to see it due to data protection.
“They won’t let me see my own son, some of the last moments he was alive. That is hard to understand and difficult to accept.”
Mr Calder, who now lives in America with Scott’s step-mum Elaine and their two young sons, said the police seemed satisfied to rule his son’s death an accident and do no further investigation into the events leading to it.
He said the family still do not understand why the officers, who took Scott into their patrol car, drove him three miles before dropping him off, late at night and without a phone to contact family or friends, instead of taking him home or to a police station.
He said the lack of information from the force had added to the family’s pain, adding: “Where they say they dropped my son off does not make sense to me and they refuse to explain it.
“They would have passed two bus stops, a bus terminus and a train station to drop him where they did.
“They didn’t know where he was going and, as far as I know, they didn’t know if he had enough money to get a bus or get home.
“I wish they had just taken him to the cells for the night. It would have given him a fright and he would have been mortified, and so would I, but he would still be here.
“When does the police’s duty of care and responsibility begin and end?
“They didn’t have control over that event, or what was happening that night. I don’t think they did otherwise this would not have happened.”
He said the police and watchdog Police Investigations and Review Commissioner, who “assessed” but did not investigate the events leading to Scott’s death before deciding officers had done nothing wrong, had failed his son and his family.
Mr Calder said: “They have done nothing to find out what actually happened to Scott.
“I come from a family who are respectful of police, and that is how I brought up my son, too. We know the important job the police do, and I would never have expected to be in this situation. The police are there to protect and serve the public, and they didn’t do that this time.
“If someone has made a mistake, then they should own up to it and lessons should be learned so that nobody else goes through this kind of thing again.
“A police officer asked me why I was asking so many questions, and actually said to me ‘What is it you want to get out of this?’.
“We are being passed from pillar to post. The police say they are no longer involved and told us to speak to the Crown Office. They tell us to speak to the police. It’s unacceptable. I just want to know how my son died. It seems they can’t, or won’t, tell me.”
On Wednesday, Brian, Elaine, Karen and her partner Gordon all visited the site in Port Seton where their son spent his final moments.
They spoke to firms nearby, residents and members of the public as they tried to find anyone who saw Scott on the night he died.
Karen said: “I am disappointed with how the police have handled this. I just feel let down, and feel they have been evasive when we’ve asked for help.
“As grieving parents it seems unfair we have to go to the place where they left Scott, go and speak to businesses and local people ourselves, and do our own investigation.
“Everything is muddled up in my head about what happened to Scott, and any little piece of information we can get to help piece the picture together is helpful.
“We know we might not get all the answers, but we have to try and I have to keep looking.”
Police Scotland said they have responded to the family’s concern. The force also said the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (PIRC) looked at the incident and decided that officers took appropriate action so the officers involved have not been given advice on how to deal with any future incidents of a similar nature
Police Scotland said: “Family liaison support was provided to Scott’s family in the immediate aftermath of his tragic death. If there are any concerns they can be raised and will be looked into.”
PIRC said: “We carried out an assessment and based on the evidence we looked at as part of that assessment, we are satisfied that Police Scotland’s actions were appropriate and that this is not a matter for the PIRC to investigate.”