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Police cleared of any fault in death of Peterhead mum Shania Collins

Shania Collins died at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary.
Shania Collins died at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary.

Police officers involved in a chase moments before a young mum collapsed and later died have been cleared of any wrongdoing.

Shania Collins, from Peterhead, had been arrested and placed in handcuffs just moments before she lost consciousness in the driveway of a property near Mintlaw.

The 19-year-old was seen to “give up” and offer her hands to be cuffed before passing out on the ground at Pitscow Croft, near Kininmonth, at around 11.55am on December 22, last year.

A fatal accident inquiry held in December heard how she was intoxicated having inhaled butane gas – which can be used for lighter fluid – earlier that morning.

And now Sheriff Andrew Miller, who presided over that inquiry, has found Police Scotland were at no fault, and that the only way the young mum’s death could have been avoided was if she hadn’t inhaled the dangerous gas and struggled with officers.

In a report issued yesterday, he said he was satisfied officers acted “lawfully and appropriately” during the pursuit, subsequent apprehension of and later medical treatment of Ms Collins.

‘It was like a last hurrah’

His report also offered up an extract from Ms Collins’ partner’s first statement to police, in which he described the incident as the pair’s “last hurrah”.

He had told police: “We were then in a car being chased by the police and Shania was aware that I was a disqualified driver and that if caught I would be arrested and would go to prison.

“It was a strange situation it was like a last hurrah as we thought we would not see each other for a while and she was taking the gas quicker than usual and drinking whisky at the same time.”

Pc Steven Morrison told the inquiry he and his colleague had followed a blue Jaguar X-Type, being driven by Ms Collins’ partner, because they suspected its driver was flouting a roads ban.

The pair led officers on a 15-to-20 minute pursuit on and around the A952 Mintlaw-to-Fraserburgh road, failing to stop despite the blue lights and sirens.

When the officers caught up with them in the driveway of a house both tried to flee the scene on foot before being apprehended by officers.

Pc Morrison said Ms Collins fell to the ground and tried to kick him before he straddled her, took hold of her arm and turned her onto her front to place cuffs on her wrists.

After the struggle, she offered up her other hand for the cuffs before suddenly falling unconscious.

Death was down to drug abuse

Ms Collins – who had a seven-month-old son – was given emergency first aid by officers then paramedics before being taken to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, where she remained until her life support was switched off five days later.

A pathologist initially believed Ms Collins had died from a hypoxic brain injury and a heart attack, but later concluded her cause of death was a global ischaemic brain injury and bronchopneumonia, alongside presumed butane abuse.

Sheriff Miller concluded: “The accident which resulted in the death of Ms Collins would have been avoided had Ms Collins refrained from inhaling butane gas on December 22 2020 or, having inhaled butane gas, from running away from, attempting to strike and struggling with Pc Morrison.”

An early version of this story referred to Ms Collins’ partner as “Paul Wilson” however that was not his real name and was used in the official findings to prevent his true identity being known. We apologise for any confusion. 

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