INDEPENDENT investigators have been called in to determine if Thames Valley Police made mistakes in its search for Jayden Parkinson.
Jayden, who was living in council-funded supported housing for homeless young people in Oxford, was reported missing on December 4 last year and her body was found two weeks later in a distburned grave in All Saints Church, Didcot.
Her boyfriend, Ben Blakeley, of Christchurch Road, Reading, has been charged with murdering her and yesterday police said tests showed she had died from what they termed “pressure to the neck”.
Police referred themselves to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) on December 14 to look into their actions over Jayden’s disappearance, but this was only made public yesterday.
The force – which has made public when it has referred itself to the IPCC in other cases – denied it had tried to keep this case secret for two months.
Assistant Chief Constable Chris Shead said: “At the time when Thames Valley Police referred the case to the Independent Police Complaints Commission there was an ongoing police investigation.
“There was no intention to withhold this information from the public, but the force’s priority was to find Jayden and to support Jayden’s family.”
A spokeswoman added that, following the discovery of Jayden’s body, Thames Valley’s “understanding” was that it then was down to the IPCC to release the information.
The IPCC did that yesterday and Associate Commissioner Guido Liguori said: “Our investigation is examining the response of Thames Valley Police to the missing person’s report, and whether the individual and collective decisions made by police officers or staff and the related actions were appropriate and proportionate in the circumstances.
“I am mindful that a murder investigation is continuing and therefore we must be cautious about the information we make public so as not to interfere with the ongoing criminal proceedings.”
IPCC spokeswoman Caroline Craig said discussions had been held with police and the Crown Prosecution Service this year about potential contempt of court issues relating to Blakeley’s trial, while the first opportunity to meet Jayden’s family was last week.
Oxford East MP Andrew Smith said he was surprised the referral had not been made public earlier, “especially given the tragedy of this case and the public interest in it that the referral was not made public much earlier”.