Death of a schoolgirl: the cover-up


By Kenneth Roy

Holiday visitors to Ayr during Glasgow Fair fortnight have been greeted by floral tributes to a dead schoolgirl in the street next to the bus station and newspaper billboards with the mawkish sentiment ‘Sleep tight Kayleigh’ scrawled across them. These were among the reactions to the death of 15-year-old Kayleigh Scott, a pupil at the town’s Belmont Academy.

The media reporting, such as it was, barely scratched the surface of this case. The police cordon around Fullerton Street, which blocked off part of the bus station, was a temporary inconvenience. The head teacher of Belmont Academy said that, although the school would not be recalled (Kayleigh having died a fortnight into the inordinately long summer break), the thoughts and prayers of ‘the school community’ were with her family ‘at this difficult time’. The police were said to be treating her death as a ‘tragic accident’.

After the initial shock caused by the death itself, public outrage was ignited by the theft of flowers from the impromptu memorial; a 30-year-old man has been charged. But the distressing events of 11 July, and their aftermath, are already fading from view. ‘Sleep tight Kayleigh’ seems to invite a form of closure.

There are, however, compelling reasons why the death of Kayleigh Scott requires further close investigation. The circumstances, and broader context, of her fatal fall from the roof of a block of tenements have not been satisfactorily explained. They need to be.

Here are the few facts at our disposal. On the evening of 11 July – a Wednesday – Kayleigh and her older sister Jodie, aged 17, were ‘enjoying a night out’ – which appears to be a euphemism for some heavy drinking. By 11.30pm the girls and, it is believed, one or two older men had somehow got themselves on to the roof of the tenement block. There was an incident, the nature of which has not been disclosed, and at 11.40 Kayleigh Scott fell around 60 feet to the ground. She was promptly treated by paramedics but when she arrived at Ayr Hospital she had died of her injuries.

It has been claimed that drinkers and drug users meet regularly on the roof in Fullerton Street. ‘No one knows why they’re so attracted to it,’ said a man who lives nearby. ‘It’s not a place to be if you don’t have your wits about you’.

How did the girls and their friends gain access to the roof? And, if it was well-known as a dangerous hangout, why had the police not taken steps to prevent its use? Neither of these questions has been answered. Nor have the police said what they mean by their statement that they do not regard the death as ‘suspicious’. Presumably this is their way of telling us that Kayleigh wasn’t murdered: that she was not thrown off the roof. What, then? Did she strumble and fall – the ‘tragic accident’ theory – or did she jump, taking her own life? It is quite unacceptable to cloak the truth – whatever it is – in such vagueness.

There is no doubt that Kayleigh – ‘a beautiful, vivacious and loving young lady’ according to her mother – was still emotionally upset by the death of her older sister Nicola in June last year. Nicola, aged 20, was found dead in a flat in the Ayrshire village of Annbank; there were high levels of the heroin substitute methadone in her blood. Two of the four children of this family have died in just over 12 months – a disturbing fact which underlines the need for a full and precise account of what happened on the roof.

The Scottish Review understands, on extremely good authority, that Kayleigh Scott was formally part of the care system: that her case had been considered by the Children’s Panel, that she was officially regarded as a young person at risk, that she was being supervised and supported. These facts have been excluded from all official statements concerning the case. They appear for the first time here.

Kayleigh was living at home, but that did not mean that she was any less a part of the care system. She had the same status as any other vulnerable young person within that system. If she had been staying in a children’s home, or with foster parents, would there have been more transparency in the reporting of her death? The case raises serious questions about the suitability, quality and effectiveness of the care she was receiving. Yet public awareness of her situation goes no further than the readership of this magazine.

If Kayleigh Scott had died in England, there would have been a coroner’s hearing and the cause of her death would already be public knowledge. But in Scotland there is no obligation on the part of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service to call a fatal accident inquiry into her death. If a prisoner dies in custody, an inquiry is obligatory. But it is not obligatory in the case of a young person in care who dies. This is a scandalous anomaly which ought to be addressed by the Scottish Government.

Do we really care so little about our most vulnerable children and young people that we are content to allow the authorities to indulge in evasions and platitudes?

No decision has been taken on whether there should be a fatal accident inquiry into Kayleigh Scott’s death. If there is any further delay in announcing such an inquiry, what smells like a cover-up will be confirmed as one. ‘Sleep tight Kayleigh’ doesn’t cut it.

Courtesy of Kenneth Roy – read Kenneth Roy in the Scottish Review