A review into the way police handled the disappearance of Owami Davies has found officers did not visit her family’s home until 20 hours after she was reported missing.
The 24-year-old’s concerned family reported her missing to Essex Police at 12.50pm on July 6, but the force did not visit her home in Grays, Essex, until about 8.20am the next day.
The lengthy delay has been picked up in an investigation into Essex Police and the Met Police’s handling of the high-profile case - a probe that has uncovered “important learning points” for both forces.
Among them are recommendations aimed to improve their “handover and communication” when passing cases from force to force.
The review has also acknowledged concerns that Ms Davies’s race affected the way police responded to her disappearance, but says an independent advisory group found “no evidence of racial bias”.
The student nurse’s disappearance prompted a major, seven-week police investigation that began in Essex before moving to London.
A joint review of the case by Essex and Metropolitan Police Service, published on Friday, cites the fact there were two other high-risk missing persons cases and an attempted murder in the same district as reasons why police were initially slow to attend her family home.
It adds that this delay led to a lag in her details being added to the Police National Computer (PNC), which is used to share information with other forces.
On July 6 - after Ms Davies had been reported missing in Essex - she was spoken to by Met Police officers outside a property in Croydon, who had attended after reports of concern for her welfare.
The review found that while officers dealt with her “compassionately”, she not been circulated on the PNC at the time, meaning they could not have known she had been reported missing.
The police contact with Ms Davies after she was reported missing was reported to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC). But when the nursewas found “safe and well” in Hampshire on August 23, seven weeks after she went missing, the police watchdog said it would take no further action.
The new internal review has acknowledged “concerns from the Black community that race was a factor in how officers responded to Owami’s disappearance”.
During their investigation, the Met published several appeals for information about her whereabouts - including one that erroneously featured an image of another woman.
The review concluded: “The mistake was due to human error and was corrected as soon as it was noticed. There was no evidence of racial bias. We apologised for the error.”
It added: “Members of the Central Race Independent Advisory Group as well as IAGs in Croydon and West Thurrock were closely linked in with the investigation as it progressed with information shared transparently. They were asked to scrutinise our actions and response and actively challenge us as needed.
“The IAGs also took part in the review process and were again encouraged to challenge us. They were satisfied there was no evidence of racial bias. We will be presenting the findings of the review to our Central Race IAG next month.”
The Met says learning points found in the review “will be used to improve our response to future missing person investigations”.
Commander Paul Brogden said: “This was the biggest missing person investigation conducted by the Met this year and officers worked tirelessly over several weeks to ensure Owami was found safe and well.
“As with any large policing operation, we have worked with our advisory groups to review our actions. I’m pleased that their feedback was largely positive, both about the officers involved and our handling of the investigation.
“The review did identify some important learning points, including how a missing person enquiry is transferred from one force to another to ensure work isn’t duplicated and any urgent enquiries are carried out as swiftly as possible.”
He added: “The focus of every missing person investigation is to find the person safe and well. I understand there will be cases that result in significant interest from the public and the media, however we must balance the need for information with the person’s right to privacy. We remain in contact with Owami and her family and we wish them well for the future.”