MLA in police complaint over drill attack 'misinformation'
An SDLP MLA has lodged a complaint against the PSNI claiming he was left embarrassed after a police officer gave him "wholly inaccurate" information about a drill attack on a woman in Co Tyrone.
The incident, which took place in Strabane in the early hours of Saturday, May 5, hit headlines across the UK after it was reported the victim of the attack in which a power drill was used, was "drilled into the skull", sparking revulsion and horror.
It later emerged when a 17-year-old boy appeared in court charged over the attack on Brenda McLaughlin (38) that the drill had not penetrated the woman's skull.
Daniel McCrossan was one of the first public representatives to speak out about the attack.
He now claims police gave him and others "wholly inaccurate information".
Mr McCrossan said his phone "hadn't stopped" all morning with people calling to ask why Strabane town centre had been cordoned off and he sought guidance from the PSNI over what had happened.
"I was told that "a serious assault had occurred, a drill was used and that they believed the victim was allegedly drilled into the skull". The scene was described by the PSNI as "something from a horror movie", Mr McCrossan said.
"On social media the PSNI also described the incident, outlining the victim was attacked with a drill, had sustained a very serious head injury, and that the victim was critical, adding again to public concern," he added.
"A short time following the conversation, I was interviewed and asked to condemn what had happened, which I did.
"I was asked what I was told happened, from that I gave an account of my understanding of the briefing which I was given that morning by the PSNI."
However, in the following days Mr McCrossan said he was left feeling embarrassed as it turned out the details he had been given by police were not accurate.
On May 10, Belfast High Court heard that the drill allegedly used in the attack "did not penetrate" the victim's skull.
Prosecutors revealed she suffered cuts to the skin around her head but no fractures.
Mr McCrossan said he has made a complaint to the PSNI, accusing them of "serious mishandling" of the information around the attack.
"As further detail emerged, it is clear the PSNI gave me and others in the public arena wholly inaccurate information," he said.
"The level of detail on the PSNI Facebook page also added hugely to public concern.
"I feel very aggrieved, frustrated and embarrassed that I was given information by the PSNI which was inaccurate, ill-informed and inflated. Information which flared public concern and grasped media attention."
He added: "It is my understanding that an assault took place and I wish the victim a full and speedy recovery to full health. Any assault should and must be fully condemned. However, it is vitally important that I express my frustration and regret that the PSNI wrongly gave out information and detail into the public domain which was incorrect.
"From the case, it is clear the victim was not 'drilled into the skull' and the scene was not the horrific description provided to me and others by the PSNI.
"I have submitted a complaint to the PSNI regarding my serious concerns and annoyance regarding the serious mishandling and poor judgement regarding their commentary of this assault.
"In the interest of public confidence, the PSNI must correct the public record as soon as possible and the inaccurate information provided and for the way in which this has been handled."
PSNI Chief Inspector Jonathan Hunter said officers are happy to meet Mr McCrossan.
"We endeavour to make public representatives aware of serious incidents in our area to manage community impact," he said.
"Police investigations can move quickly and as new evidence comes to light, the context of an incident can change.
"We have written to the person concerned and would be more than happy to discuss this matter with him directly."