Police chief launches review after Portsmouth detective fails to seize crystal meth at drugs death scene

A SENIOR detective failed to seize a packet of crystal meth from the only surviving occupant in a flat where a man died of a drug overdose, an inquest heard.

Tuesday, 13th July 2021, 4:55 am
Updated Wednesday, 14th July 2021, 2:11 pm
Police and crime commission Donna Jones has welcomed the review set to be carried out by Hampshire Constabulary

Det Sgt Marcus Mills, of Portsmouth CID, had been called to investigate the death of Thomas Toomer, who had been found naked and unresponsive at the flat of his partner, Phillip Gazzard in Southsea on the evening of December 1, 2019.

However, despite concerns over the death from colleagues already at the scene, the veteran officer – who has been a detective for 24 years – chose not to confiscate the illegal Class A drug after Mr Gazzard admitted to having it on him.

A bottle of containing an amount of the date rape drug GHB – which is a Class B narcotic – was however seized by another officer before Det Sgt Mills’ arrival.

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Phillip Gazzard, the former partner of Thomas Toomer who had volunteered information to DS Marcus Mills that he was in possession of crystal meth. DS Mills is not pictured. (jpns 150621-)

The situation concerned one chief inspector from another police force, who told The News it was ‘ridiculous’ for police to have left a Class A drug in someone’s possession. ‘It’s not legal’, the senior officer said, adding any party where a death was involved needed ‘an investigation with items seized’.

A mobile phone belonging to Mr Gazzard was also not seized at the time; it was voluntarily handed to police days later, having had its memory wiped and all potential evidence deleted.

Now one of Hampshire Constabulary’s most senior officers has vowed to launch a review into the case.

Assistant Chief Constable Craig Dibdin said: ‘It is important to recognise that there has been no criticism of our investigation within the coroner’s report.

An example of crystal meth, an illegal Class A drug which had been in possession of Phillip Gazzard on the night his partner, Thomas Toomer, was found dead following a drug overdose.

‘We will review this case in light of these observations from the inquest to ensure that any learning or subsequent actions are identified and communicated to relevant officers and teams, but there is currently no basis for re-opening the investigation given the evidence available and the coroner’s findings.’

During the inquest at Portsmouth Coroner’s Court, Det Sgt Mills said Mr Gazzard ‘volunteered’ that he had some crystal meth in his wallet.

Asked in court what happened to the drugs, Det Sgt Mills said: ‘They weren’t seized. I made the decision not to seize [them].’

Barrister Mark Ashley, representing Mr Toomer’s family, questioned the decision and said: ‘Bearing in mind you’ve got somebody deceased with a question mark over whether he had had an overdose of, amongst other things, crystal meth was there any particular reasoning for you deciding not to seize the illegal Class A drugs that Mr Gazzard, the only other person present in the flat, told you he had in his wallet?’

Det Sgt Mills said it would be ‘extremely difficult’ to prove it was the same batch of drugs in Mr Toomer’s and who had administered it.

‘You wouldn’t even be able to say if it were from the same batch unless you seize the drugs – it might be difficult but it’s impossible if you don’t seize the evidence if you have the opportunity. Do you accept that?’ Mr Ashley said.

‘I accept that but in my experience any submissions in relation to forensic analysis wouldn’t be authorised,’ Det Sgt Mills said. ‘If somebody has got something to hide, they’re not going to be volunteering information to help.’

Mr Dibden added officers made decisions ‘based on the information available to them at the time and the relevance to the enquiries’ they’re undertaking.

Donna Jones, Hampshire’s police and crime commissioner, stood by the force and added: 'I welcome Hampshire Constabulary’s decision to review the case and ensure that any learning is applied within the force.

‘If the family have any specific concerns in relation to how the investigation was carried out then I would strongly advise them to raise these directly with the constabulary.

‘All complaints are dealt with in a robust and thorough manner. It is essential that all allegations of wrongdoing are fully investigated so the public can have confidence in the constabulary.’

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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