Police staff member shared dead body image with WhatsApp group and his partner

A police control room worker who shared a picture of a teenager’s body in a WhatsApp group was arrested after telling a colleague he had also sent the image to his girlfriend, it has emerged.

British Transport Police said the actions of Joshua Tilt – who has since been sacked after his resignation was refused – were “sickening and completely incompatible with both public decency” and what is expected of police staff.

Birmingham Crown Court was told the 31-year-old used his personal mobile phone to photograph a “highly sensitive” picture which was displayed on a computer screen after 18-year-old Lewis Williams was hit by a train.

Joshua Tilt court case
Joshua Tilt leaving court after being granted bail (Matthew Cooper/PA)

Lewis, described by his family as “popular, funny and kind”, was diagnosed with emotionally unstable personality disorder before his death in Slough, Berkshire, in June.

His parents were in court for Friday’s 15-minute hearing to see Tilt plead guilty to misconduct in public office.

Tilt, of Lye Close Lane, Bartley Green, Birmingham, was granted unconditional bail and told a custodial sentence is likely to be passed when he returns to court on December 14.

In a statement confirming details of the inquiry, British Transport Police said Tilt took a picture on his mobile phone on June 21 of an image from the scene of a railway fatality.

The force added: “The highly sensitive image had been received to the Force Control Room by email, as part of our investigation for the coroner’s file.

“Joshua Tilt told another member of staff that he had sent the picture of this image to his girlfriend.

“The concerned member of staff reported this to BTP’s Professional Standards Department on 28 June, and they immediately launched a full and thorough investigation.

“On 30 June Tilt was arrested and interviewed, where he admitted sending the same image on WhatsApp to a group chat with 12 people in.

“Tilt tried to resign but the force rejected his resignation and dismissed him formally without notice two weeks later on 14 July.”

The force’s Deputy Chief Constable, Alistair Sutherland, said: “The actions of Joshua Tilt have shocked each of us at BTP to the core.

“As an organisation, we take great pride in supporting families through some of the darkest days of their lives, and treating each of them with care, compassion and respect.

“To know that the actions of one of our employees actually intensified the suffering of a family is something that we find incredibly distressing. Our Chief Constable visited the family to explain what had happened and apologise unreservedly.

“As soon as a member of staff reported Tilt’s actions, an investigation was immediately launched by our professional standards department and he was arrested within two days. We did not accept Tilt’s resignation request and dismissed him from the force on 14 July.

Lewis Williams court case
Lewis Williams, who died in Slough in June (Family handout/PA)

“His actions are in no way representative of the thousands of BTP officers, staff and volunteers who display the highest levels of professionalism and commitment every single day to the communities we serve.

“They are sickening and completely incompatible with both public decency and what is to be rightly expected of a member of the police service.

“To the family of Lewis Williams – we are truly sorry this happened.”

Tilt admitted a charge which alleged that he wilfully misconducted himself by taking a picture of a photo which he had access to and distributing it to other people with “no legitimate purpose for viewing or possessing it”.

Lewis’s father Paul Williams has previously told how the family were informed on July 2 that an investigation had been launched into a staff member.

Mr Williams, from Slough, said he was told someone had “gained access to the police aftermath scene photos, chosen a photo of his (Lewis’s) dismembered body and then shared the image in a WhatsApp chat group with 14 others”.

“I immediately felt sick,” Mr Williams said.

Adjourning sentence on Tilt, Judge Paul Farrer KC told him: “You have pleaded guilty to what on any view is a serious offence involving gross misconduct in the course of your employment.

“You have heard me indicate to your counsel that the likely sentence is one of imprisonment. Nonetheless, the court will benefit from having more information about you before ultimately deciding upon the nature and length of your sentence.”