POLICE have apologised to Shaun Elliott’s family and vowed to improve its missing persons procedures following a scathing report into the way the search was conducted.
An Independent Police Complaints Commission investigation found eight officers failed to comply with force policies during the search for Mr Elliott.
A jury ruled at the conclusion of a three week inquest that had police raised Mr Elliott's risk level sooner, he may have been saved.
Wycombe’s Area Commander Superintendent Ed McLean - who was not in charge of the LPA when Mr Elliott went missing - said: "I would like to extend my sincere condolences to family and friends of Shaun Elliott."
He said the missing persons investigation had been referred to the IPCC by TVP for a transparent review which resulted in some officers receiving management advice.
He added: "Both the IPCC and the coronial enquiry have identified areas for improvement and organisational learning.
"I would like to reassure the family and the community that these findings will be taken seriously and appropriate changes will be implemented accordingly."
The IPCC ruled basic investigatory steps were not carried out during the search for Mr Elliott, with decisions taken based on assumptions rather than facts.
The commission made seven recommendations for improvement to Thames Valley Police, which the force has implemented.
IPCC Commissioner Derrick Campbell said: “There were basic investigative steps that were not carried out correctly which were compounded by a lack of supervision and what can only be described as a lax approach by senior officers to checking the actions of the constables tasked with investigating Shaun’s disappearance.
"Decisions were based on assumptions rather than fact, and proposed actions and decisions around Shaun’s risk assessment and the rationale for not escalating it to high risk were not documented."
Mr Elliott’s sister Clare said: "We did everything we could to find Shaun but he was let down by Thames Valley Police. His suffering and death could have been avoided.”
“We had no support from the force while Shaun was missing, or even after his death.
"It is a shame that we had to wait two and a half years, and go through an IPCC investigation and inquest, before they could express condolences and regret."
See next week’s Bucks Free Press for a full interview with the family.