A harrowing report by BBC Northern Ireland (NI) has brought to light the details of allegations that two police officers from the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) had manipulated a suicide victim’s body, photographing them and later sharing the images and videos online. Though the incident itself is said to have occurred in 2017, it has only now found itself in the spotlight with full disclosure.
The family of the victim in question spoke to BBC NI Spotlight on the horrific discovery of their loved one’s abuse by the two officers who were called to the scene when the body was found in 2017. The father of the deceased male told the news outlet that he was first informed of the allegations 18 months after the death of his son—and was told to keep quiet on the details.
“They informed me that two police officers had been questioned regarding my son and photographs that might have been taken of my son,” he told BBC NI Spotlight. The family were told that “it was a very serious affair and we weren’t to discuss it.” Details, like the fact that the victim’s genitals had been exposed in the photographs, were “drip-fed” to the family, as per the BBC’s report.
The sister of the deceased told the publication that the two police officers had also reportedly moved her brother’s body around the room (in which he was found) into various positions and poses for pictures and videos. The family were also informed that additional edits/stickers were added to the imagery such as “an exclamation bubble coming out of my brother’s mouth making fun of the way that he was.”
The Photoshopped speech bubbles were part of the images that were shared on social media, among the pictures of his exposed genitalia, and involved what the sister believed was the word “taig”—a derogatory term for Catholics. She told BBC NI Spotlight that she could not fathom how or why anyone would be as heartless to mock a victim of suicide.
Unsurprisingly, the father stated that he is “physically sick to this day” over the accusations against the officers—haunted by the thought that these actions were happening while he was in the house. “Those police officers were in the house while I was there—asked me to leave the room—and I done everything they asked me to at the time,” he continued. “And all that keeps coming back to me is why did I leave the room, because that must have been when they done it, when they took the photographs.”
This particular case surfaced as part of a “much broader and more complex case encompassing investigations into 11 separate and related incidents” of police misconduct “spanning several years,” said NI’s Police Ombudsman Marie Anderson. One of the officers being questioned has been suspended during the length of the investigation on full pay, as per BBC NI Spotlight. The family’s lawyer, Pádraig Ó Muirigh, has also queried this decision.
In an inquiry that has lasted an “unacceptable” five years, “I think the family and the wider public has a right to know why someone has been suspended so long on full pay,” Ó Muirigh added. This case seems just the latest in a long line of examples of serious and gross misconduct by police officers across the UK. Not only does the case of Sarah Everard obviously come to mind but the family’s lawyer cited the very similar incident of murdered sisters Bibaa Henry and Nicole Smallman in June 2021—on discovery of their bodies, Met Police took images of the women and shared them on WhatsApp groups.
One such message of the sisters read: “Unfortunately I’m sat next to two dead birds with stab wounds.” The constables in question have each been jailed for 33 months. The suicide victim’s sister has since told the BBC that following the handling of her brother’s case, she had lost faith in the PSNI going forward. “I couldn’t even lift the phone and dial 999 now if I was in an emergency. I wouldn’t want them near me or my family because they can’t be trusted.”