14/08/2014 16:53 BST | Updated 22/05/2015 10:12 BST

Police Gave Grieving Mum A Bag Of Rubbish Instead Of Dead Son's Possessions

Police gave grieving mum a bag of rubbish instead of dead son's possessions

A grieving mother who went to collect her dead son's clothes from police was instead given a bag full of rubbish containing dirty tissues, cigarette butts, grubby newspapers, food wrappers and empty cans and bottles.

Diane Down, 49, thought she was going to collect the possessions of her son Sam Down, who died aged 18 in mysterious circumstances in 2007.

Sam was staying at a friend's house when he was found slumped unconscious with a cut on his head, and was later pronounced dead.

His mum was expecting to pick up the clothes her son was wearing when he died, but was instead given her a bag of rubbish from the house where he died, which was used as evidence.

Diane said: "I'm absolutely distraught. I had plucked up the courage to finally go and pick up my son's possessions and this is what they have given me to remember him by.
"There is nothing here even remotely connected to my son for me to treasure. I thought it was going to be his clothes and they would smell of him. It was a very personal thing for me - I wanted to be able to touch them and hold them again.

"But they literally gave me a bag of stinking rubbish. It's just heart-breaking."

The police mistake came after Diane had fought a six-year battle to get answers about how her son died unexpectedly in October 2007.

Her son was found dead the day after a party at a friend's house close to his family home in Stantonbury, near Milton Keynes.

An inquest into his death heard how Sam's friend, Elliot Cooper-Carroll, woke up in the morning and noticed he was slumped unconscious on the floor with a cut on his head.

But Elliot and his mother did not call an ambulance until four hours after they noticed Sam's injuries, the inquest heard.

In the meantime, the family had bagged up rubbish from the night before and even sat down to eat bacon sandwiches for lunch before eventually calling 999.

Sam was pronounced dead as soon as he arrived at hospital. A coroner recorded a verdict of accidental death for Sam, which Diane has been fighting ever since.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission later ruled that Thames Valley Police had made mistakes in their original inquiry, but the case has never been re-opened.

Diane then asked to collect Sam's possessions which had been left with police.

Superintendent Barry Halliday apologised for the mistake, and pledged to deliver the correct package to the distraught mother.

He said:"'I express my sincere apologies for this situation. My staff fully understand how difficult this must be for families and all efforts are made to examine the contents fully before release but on this occasion, for understandable reasons, this was not possible.

"Having reviewed this case carefully, the police still have an item of clothing belonging to Sam and I will ensure this is delivered to Mrs Down as soon as possible."