Fife widow says police '˜watered down' probe into husband's death

A widow has called for change to fatal investigation laws after she believed cops carried out a watered down probe into her husband's death.

Tuesday, 13th March 2018, 9:17 am
Updated Tuesday, 13th March 2018, 10:18 am
Robbie Rintoul with his wife Jean.
Robbie Rintoul with his wife Jean.

Robbie Rintoul (68) was fatally struck by a HGV while walking away from his place of work after a driver failed to spot him before moving off.

His family say that they then endured a three-year battle for justice in the civil courts after prosecutors ruled out criminal charges and even a fatal accident inquiry (FAI).

Police carried out a different investigation into the death because it happened on private property rather than if it had happened on a public highway.

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Widow Jean Rintoul (68) now fears families are being denied justice because of red tape.

She said: “The way Robbie’s death was investigated raises concerns about the way Police Scotland carries out its enquiries.

“If there was a murder on private ground the police would investigate the same as if it were in public so why is a traffic fatality treated differently?

“Those behind these policies need to rethink the investigating, recording and reporting of all deaths because no one should be left without even a sense of justice because of a difference in process.”

Robbie worked as a blacksmith at Strathore Business Park in Thornton, less than 1km from his house.

After finishing for the day on Wednesday, February 4, 2015, he made his way home on foot like he had for decades.

But while exiting the site he walked past a parked lorry that had its motor running.

Lawyers say that the driver had left the HGV running as he visited the site office and when he returned to the cab he drove off – tragically knocking down Robbie.

The Crown ruled out an FAI claiming it wasn’t a workplace death as Robbie clocked off just minutes before – even though he was still on the industrial estate.

An investigation for the civil action then found Police Scotland compile Collision Investigation Reports for fatalities on public roads but on private ones officers complete a Sudden Death Report.

But lawyers say that it is unknown why the two are treated differently.

Jean, a retired manager in social care, believes the incident also highlighted a need for all haulage vehicles to be equipped with more mirrors to reduce blind spots.

She added: “There is no point harbouring a grudge against the driver as he has Robbie’s death on his conscience for the rest of his life.

“It was also argued Robbie was in a blind spot – well if that’s true there should also be laws in place for additional mirrors to be fitted to lorries or large vans to prevent these incidents happening.

“But the main issue is we now know there are gaps in the system of how deaths are investigated and I think it’s in the public interest to have these differences explained and rectified – no death should be treated differently just because of who the landowner is.”

The civil action against Strathore Plant Hire Ltd was argued on driver negligence and settled last month with company bosses paying out an undisclosed sum before it reached court.

Innes Laing, Partner at Digby Brown Solicitors who represented the family, praised Mrs Rintoul for the way she has handled the incident.

He said: “This was a tragic incident for the family to endure.

“They have shown great strength of character in dealing with the defenders for the last three years.

“Hopefully they will now be able to restore some sense of balance and peace to their lives.”

Police say it was not an issue for them to comment on.