CCTV lapse at centre of Natasha probe

POLICE claims that a lack of CCTV footage was one of the problems responsible for the length of time it took to find the body of tragic teenager Natasha Coombs are to be probed by an independent inquiry.

POLICE claims that a lack of CCTV footage was one of the problems responsible for the length of time it took to find the body of tragic teenager Natasha Coombs are to be probed by an independent inquiry.

Natasha, 17, of Fronks Road, Dovercourt, who suffered from depression, made a phone call on the evening of July 27 in which she threatened to throw herself in front of a train near Manningtree station.

But despite her subsequent disappearance it took police almost two weeks to find her body - which was eventually located at the bottom of a railway embankment only about a mile from the station.

Natasha's mother, Joanne, took her own life at the same spot five weeks later.


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Now, following a complaint from Natasha's father, Gary, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) is to investigate why it took so long for the two forces involved - Essex Police and British Transport Police - to discover the body of the teenager.

Shortly after the inquest of both Natasha and Joanne Coombs, Essex police issued a statement saying a number of factors had contributed to the delay.

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“There were a number of different scenarios we had to look at with regard to the disappearance of Natasha Coombs,” it said.

“Nobody reported Natasha getting off the train at Manningtree railway station and in the absence of CCTV we had to look at a possible abduction or her coming to harm somewhere else.

“The railway tracks were only one potential area.”

The statement also said police searched an area of water and used the force helicopter to search the railway tracks from Ipswich to Colchester.

She added: “POLSA (police search adviser) teams searched areas by hand which is a slow and meticulous process. No train drivers reported seeing anything despite the fact that numerous trains had passed by and nothing was found on the tracks.

“The body was covered by a canopy of trees and in dense undergrowth on a steep embankment. The canopy made it impossible to see the body from the air.”

An inquest in November heard that the night she went missing Natasha Coombs had phoned her boyfriend Josh Brennan's mother sounding upset. She told Mrs Brennan she was on the railway line between Ipswich and Manningtree.

The inquest was told that Mrs Coombs had gone through “hell” after Natasha vanished.

Jurors concluded that Natasha died as the result of an accident - but that Mrs Coombs took her own life.

An IPCC spokesman said: “Among other things, the IPCC investigation will look into the way that Essex Police and British Transport Police (BTP) carried out inquiries into her disappearance and their subsequent actions, including the way that searches were carried out.”

A spokeswoman for Essex Police said: “We will fully co-operate with the IPCC investigation but while it is ongoing it would be inappropriate to make any comment.”

A BTP spokesman said: “The matter has been referred to the IPCC and while the investigation is ongoing the BTP will have no comment to make.”

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