‘Failings in search operation must not be allowed to happen again’

THE father of the Glengormley man who died in the River Lagan earlier this year has appealed to Chief Constable Matt Baggott to ensure lessons are learned from his son’s tragic death.

Joby Murphy died after falling from a footbridge across the river after a night out in Belfast in January. He had been at a Snow Patrol concert in the Odyssey Arena and was then drinking in one of the centre’s nightclubs before the accident.

After he fell in the river his family and friends had to endure an agonising four-week wait until the 20-year-old’s body was eventually recovered from the water by the Cork based Mallow Search and Rescue team.

In a letter to the Chief Constable, Matt Baggott, Mr Murphy said he was “frustrated and angry” about the role the police played in the search for his son’s body.

In the letter he asks:

- Why the Fire and Rescue Service was not alerted during the vital moments right after Joby fell in the river which could have saved his life?

- Why it then took three days to call in the fire service’s specialised divers?

- Why the PSNI’s own dive coordinator raised the family’s spirits by promising to find the body only to fail hopelessly.

- Why a sonar image was rejected early on in the search only to turn out to be the Glengormley man’s body?

- Why the family had to research diving methods and bring in rescue teams themselves?

- Why constant offers of help by diving and recovery experts were refused as they “would only get in the way”?

- And why a summons was sent for Joby to his home address in Elmfield, despite the police family liaison officer informing the family he would “take care of it” when he was told about it at an earlier occasion.

Joe said: “The bureaucracy of the entire search haunts me.

“All we want is to sit down and have a chat with the Chief Constable about the problems that we faced.

“We realise he is a busy man, but there were many problems and I want to know why.

“Had the Fire and Rescue Service been called out the moment he went in the water, he may have been saved, but we just don’t know why they were not called out.

“And had the divers not dismissed an object the sonar picked up early on - which turned out to be Joby - we may have been able to have an open coffin funeral and kissed our Joby goodbye.

“We just want an acknowledgement of the facts that things went wrong. We are not ones to push it further than that.”

A police spokesman confirmed that a senior officer has since been in contact with Mr Murphy to organise a meeting which will address his concerns.

Read the full story in this week’s Times...