Two police officers who sat watching Netflix at a missing woman’s home and were left “cold” for four hours have been told they will not face any disciplinary action beyond being asked to “reflect”.
Abbygail Lawton, 21, from Wigan, was in the middle of a mental health crisis when ambulance services raised the alarm about her welfare and called police for backup.
Two officers and a woman from Greater Manchester Police were sent to her home and after searching her confirmed she was not there.
The two male officers were tasked with waiting at her house in case she returned and then made themselves comfortable, sitting on her sofa with their feet up as they watched Ms Lawton’s television trying to find a series of Come Dine with Me to see. One of them used her dumbbells.
Ms Lawton had complained about their behavior but today GMP Professional Standards said they would not discipline the trio.
They said officers should remain at her home for safety reasons in case she returned while other officers and a helicopter searched for her.
The two officers have been told their behavior “did not violate standards of professional conduct” but that they should reflect on their appearance. And Ms Lawton has been told she can appeal her decision.
CCTV from Abbygail Lawton’s home captured two Greater Manchester Police officers playing with their phones as they waited in case she returned home.
During the four-hour wait, CCTV captured two officers wearing their dumbbells and sitting on the sofa.
Ms. Lawton had been reported missing and police were sent to her home to wait for her in case she returned.
A GMP Professional Standards spokesperson said: “Greater Manchester is a busy jurisdiction and there is always a 999 call to respond to, so it is understandable that releasing these CCTV images without explanation could undermine public confidence.” .
“What the CCTV does not say is that the officers’ attendance at the property for an extended period of time had been agreed with those running the operation to ensure the woman was safeguarded in the event she returned to the property, as she had indicated that he was trying.
“The officers have been spoken to and they understand that, although they had left the television on and the dumbbells outside, they should have refrained from watching or using them while they were deployed at the scene.”
Ms Lawton, a mother-of-one, was missing for 11 hours before two other officers found her. She was then “arrested for wasting police time” and spent 12 hours in police custody.
Only when she finally returned home did she rewatch the CCTV footage which she claims shows the two male officers “mocking” her.
Sitting in their living room, the couple had made comments about how she had recently watched The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, started exercising, and even looked directly into the camera to say, “Hey Abbygail, I know you’re watching.”
Two agents and a female agent arrived at his house shortly before 10:00 p.m. on January 3. After conducting the search, the officer allegedly told her colleagues “you could relax here in case she comes back” before explaining that she was leaving the house. door on the latch.
Lawton revealed to MailOnline the conversations the officers allegedly had at his home.
Mrs Lawton said: “When he left the address, the two officers came in and put Netflix on my TV, making comments about what I had seen.
“They told me that they had seen The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, which I had seen before, and another series that I had seen.
“Then they say ‘we could watch something like Come Dine With Me’ before the other officer watches Dog’s Behaving Badly and starts saying ‘it’s pretty good’.”
‘Then they choose something on Netflix and start watching TV. Then one of the officers picks up my dumbbell and starts lifting weights, as you can see in the pictures, before sitting back down.’
CCTV captured the officers sitting on their sofa with their feet up as they looked at the TV trying to find a series of Come Dine with Me to watch.
When she was found, Ms Lawton was “arrested for wasting police time” and spent 12 hours in police custody.
Ms Lawton had been alerted on her phone that there had been movement in her house and was furious that her privacy had been invaded while she sat doing nothing.
The officers then hear on their radios that the sergeant is on the phone with Ms. Lawton trying to locate her.
“The two officers discovered that she was talking to the sergeant on the phone and made a comment that said, ‘she’s happy to talk to the sergeant on the phone, but not happy to be found,'” he explained.
“I was in the woods really struggling, I had overdosed before I left and I was in a really serious mental health crisis.
‘The officers had heard over the radio that I had been watching them through CCTV cameras because I told the sergeant that I was unhappy because they were at my house while I was not there and because they were sitting on my sofa watching TV.
“Then an officer walks up to the camera and says ‘hey Abbygail, I know you’re watching us’ and then sits on the couch, which again is inappropriate.”
CCTV also captured officers scaling his garden fence instead of using the open gate to enter his home a day later.
Lawton was in the midst of a mental health crisis when he disappeared earlier this month.
Ms Lawton claimed officers also carried out a data breach when they left their radios on full blast so they could hear all other crimes reported in the area, including the names, ages and addresses of victims and offenders.
An investigation has since been launched by Greater Manchester Police’s professional standards department, which is investigating the officers who sat at home for hours, as well as the female officer who initially told them to “relax”.
The force is also investigating the use of force by other officers when Ms Lawton was arrested and why she was detained while suffering a mental health crisis.
After sending two police helicopters, a police officer and a police officer found Ms Lawton in the woods at around 4am.
When she refused to get into the police car, she claims the officer put both hands on her and pushed her into the back of a police car.
Mrs Lawton added: “I was crying because I was so distraught and he said to me: ‘I don’t feel any sympathy for your crying, you’ve wasted my time looking for yourself for five hours.’
The sergeant had told her they would take her to the hospital, but instead they took her into custody.
“I spent 12 hours in custody. ‘I arrived at 5am and was released at 5pm on the 4th,’ she said.
‘During my interview, a female police officer asked me: ‘How would you feel if there were no police officers available for emergencies because everyone was looking for you?’
“At this point I hadn’t seen the footage of the officers sitting on my couch, but they’re clearly not that busy looking for me sitting on the couch watching TV.
“Obviously that comment distressed me because I didn’t mean to waste the police’s time or cause distress and I was obviously in a mental health crisis.”
A mental health nurse who came to visit during the ordeal urged her to make a formal complaint, adding that she should have been taken to hospital.
The force is now investigating the officers’ overall level of service, with regards to watching television and using gym equipment.
Ms Lawton strongly criticized the officers and police have since opened an investigation into their conduct.
They are also investigating allegations of unprofessional attitude and disrespect, use of force, power to arrest and detain, as well as discourteous language and tone.
Mrs Lawton added: “I’m ashamed of police officers. Being wrongly arrested is traumatizing and being in custody is horrible being in a cell – you can’t do anything.
‘You have no privacy because they are watching you on the cameras, they see you go to the bathroom. This has made me lose trust in the police because I assume that they are going to arrest me again when I haven’t done anything wrong.
‘I am disappointed and embarrassed by the two officers sitting watching TV, the comments they made and how they acted on my property. I have not given them consent to be in my house, watch TV or use my gym equipment.
“It was like they were mocking me and teasing me while I was in the woods having a crisis, the weather was terrible that day, rainy and cold, I was clearly having a mental health crisis and they were just sitting here watching TV like saying ‘fuck, we don’t care if she’s missing’.
Greater Manchester Police have been contacted for a statement.
If you need help, you can contact Samaritans via the free helpline 116 123 or by email at email@example.com