Delays were made in looking for a missing schoolboy later found hanged because of police staffing shortages, an inquest heard.
Thomas Gallagher, 16, was reported missing by his worried family in the early hours of July 11 last year.
The Bacup and Rawtenstall Grammar School pupil was discovered by a dog walker in Old Kays Park in Tottington, Bury, shortly after 8am the same day.
An inquest into his death was told how police should have had 15 staff on duty covering the Bury area with a minimum requirement of 10, however only SEVEN officers were available due to three being on approved annual leave and two others on maternity leave.
Inspector Robert Findlow told the jury at Heywood Coroners Court how a meeting was held earlier in the week with the division where ‘concerns’ were raised over the lack of operational weekend staff.
He said he was ‘assured’ efforts would be made to make sure there was ‘sufficient staff on duty’.
However, when he started his shift on Friday, July 10, he was informed by the evening inspector that there were ‘no more resources available’.
Thomas’ missing person call was given a ‘Grade 2 priority’ after the call handler was told by his father that he had psychosis, was on medication and had previously attempted suicide.
However, police were forced to place FIFTEEN delays on the incident log between the initial 2.44am call and 8.49am due to a lack of officers and higher priority ‘Grade 1’ incidents.
Insp Findlow said: “There was a lot going on. It was an exceptionally busy night.
“We were dealing with 95 incidents that night and the following night it was 54.
“It was a priority Grade 2 which is why we were trying to get it resourced.
“There were Grade 1 incidents that required immediate response because there was an immediate threat and safeguarding that had to be responded to.”
Insp Findlow said he considered requesting ‘cross-border assistance’ from another nearby police division such as Bolton.
However he determined those resources would take at least one hour to arrive and the ‘best option’ was to wait for a Bury-based officer starting at 6am to make the enquiries.
Insp Findlow, who has held the rank for 13 years, told the jury that he had failed to notice when reviewing the incident log that no further ‘service call’ had been made to Thomas’ family advising them that they were ‘trying to resource it’.
He told the inquest: “Every officer involved in this has learned some lessons and practices are changing and have changed.
“If I had noted it, and my practice now, is to put on that request for police to call the informant.”