Electrician Kevin Mcleod was just 24 when his body was recovered from Wick Harbour in 1997.
In February, it will be the 24th anniversary of that tragic day.
A crack squad of retired senior detectives has been assembled to investigate “every avenue” surrounding the unsolved death of a man.
Mystery has surrounded the death from the day Kevin’s body was recovered from Wick Harbour on February 9, 1997.
He had been on a night out with friends, but had somehow ended up in the water and drowned.
A Fatal Accident Inquiry (FAI) the following year delivered an open verdict.
Northern Constabulary claimed Mr McLeod had sustained abdominal injuries from falling on an ornamental bollard before falling into the harbour, where he drowned.
His family claim he was assaulted and murdered and a witness two decades later claimed he saw an argument between Kevin and two people, possibly off-duty police officers, before hearing a splash.
It wasn’t until 2017 when the Mcleod family was handed an apology, with Police Scotland admitting “serious failings” in the handling of the case, including not following a specific instruction by a former procurator fiscal to treat it as murder.
The findings of the cold case review will be handed to the Crown Office some time in the New Year.
‘The botched investigation into Kevin’s death was simply a scandal’
Kevin’s parents Hugh and June said: “Kevin was aged 24 when he died. Ironically, nearly 24 years on, we are still fighting to get to the truth regarding the circumstances surrounding his horrific death.
“The botched investigation into Kevin’s death was simply a scandal which even today threatens to undermine public trust and confidence in Scottish police, in particular Caithness police, when investigating violent crime, including the most serious – that of murder.
“Kevin’s sudden and unsolved death however brings with it additional burdens which are only lifted when those left behind understand why he died.
“Often understanding is dependent on a caring, open and honest inquiry by organisations like the police, Crown Office and others in the justice system.
“Sadly, in Kevin’s case that did not happen and our heartache has continued day after painful day for the past 24 years because we have been cruelly denied understanding by a justice system in denial, more concerned with covering up its mistakes, and seeing its own reputation as more important than our family’s heartache.”
They added: “Despite our relentless campaign uncovering official failure, lies and deceit within the system, justice has been denied and police officers and others charged with serving justice and keeping us safe have been allowed to retire and avoid the consequences of their failures.
It should never have come to this point which clearly is a sad reflection of policing in Scotland today.”
The Mcleod family
“We suspect that not only police were complicit in an attempt to cover-up and conceal the truth surrounding the circumstances of Kevin’s death and the botched police inquiry, but that public officials from other authorities, including members of the then Northern Joint Police board, we suspect, were also complicit.
“Its incredible that 24 years after Kevin’s death an English force, Merseyside police, is now independently investigating Kevin’s case as a whole.
“It should never have come to this point which clearly is a sad reflection of policing in Scotland today.”
‘There are so many questions to be answered in this case’
In 2017, 20 years after campaigning for the truth, Police Scotland’s then Deputy Chief Constable Iain Livingstone finally admitted and revealed that legacy force Northern Constabulary had indeed failed to act on the fiscal’s instruction to investigate Kevin’s death as a murder.
The couple went on: “We question, why after it was discovered that police had failed to act on the fiscal’s murder inquiry instruction did the authorities not then, or indeed, any time after, launch a murder investigation.
“There are so many questions to be answered in this case, the most crucial being, why did detectives ignore the prosecutors instruction to investigate Kevin’s death as murder, why did police immediately destroy Kevin’s clothing during what should have been a murder investigation, why did the prosecutor fail to ensure that his instruction to police was carried out in full, and why did all the authorities involved conceal these serious failures from the family for two decades?
“These serious failures clearly, were not just individual failures but corporate failures at its highest level.
“No person, or other family in Scotland, must ever again be treated with contempt or suffer the denials and lies that we had experienced by police over the past 24 years, whose aim clearly, we believe, was to crush and discredit our family in an attempt to protect their own integrity and reputation.
Will 2021 be the year that our 24 year nightmare will finally end and Kevin will at last rest in peace?”
The Mcleod family
“When Kevin died 24 years ago something within our whole family died, and the heartache continues each and every day as we think of what might have been had this tragedy never occurred.
“We do enter 2021 in hope however, and as the anniversary of Kevin’s passing approaches on 9th February we have genuine hope that Scotland’s justice system will finally deliver understanding and allow our healing to start.
“Will 2021 be the year that our 24 year nightmare will finally end and Kevin will at last rest in peace?
“Despite the many years of deceit we have put our faith in the ongoing independent enquiry being carried out by Merseyside Police and the Crown Office. – We pray that 2021 will be the year for truth and justice.
“Thank you to the many friends, including people we didn’t even know, who have helped us keep Kevin’s name alive over the past 24 years.”
Kevin Mcleod: The case so far
February 9, 1997 – Mr Mcleod’s body is recovered from Wick Harbour with serious internal injuries.
May 1998 – A Fatal Accident Inquiry is held, with Northern Constabulary claiming Mr McLeod had sustained abdominal injuries from falling on an ornamental bollard before falling into the harbour, where he drowned. His family claim he was assaulted and murdered.
September 1998 – A sheriff gives an open verdict on the case, saying foul play could not be ruled out.
2002 – Andrew Cameron, the Chief Constable of Central Scotland Police, carried out an inquiry and found shortcomings, saying it was wrong to dismiss it as an accident.
2007 – The Police Complaints Commissioner for Scotland said Northern Constabulary behaved with “institutional arrogance” in the way it handled complaints from Mr McLeod’s parents. Northern Constabulary Chief Constable Ian Latimer apologises for these, but insists the death is a tragic accident and officers carried out a thorough investigation.
December 2017 – Police Scotland’s Iain Livingstone finally reveals: “It is Police Scotland’s unequivocal position that we fully accept that an instruction was indeed given by the then Procurator Fiscal to treat Kevin’s death as a murder and to investigate it accordingly, a matter which Northern Constabulary at that time failed to do”.
February 9, 2018 – Mr Mcleod’s family and Police Scotland appeal for help on the 21st anniversary of his death.
May 2019 – Lord Advocate instructs an experienced prosecutor to review police handling of the case
July 2019 – Police Scotland asked Merseyside Police to carry out a separate cold case review of the case – and recruit a team of retired senior detective to investigate “every avenue”
Oct 2020 – Merseyside Police reveal their inquiries will now extend into the New Year, giving family hope the case is being ‘meticulously investigated’