Police complaints commision investigating hunt for 'vulnerable' missing man
AN INVESTIGATION has been launched into the hunt for a missing Plymouth man whose body was later found in a Paignton garden.
Valon Anthony Pitts, also known as Cheng Somers, died last month at the age of 36.
His body was found on August 22 in a garden on Winner Hill Road, Paignton.
An inquest into his death was recently opened and adjourned in Torquay.
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According to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), Devon and Cornwall Police had been contacted by a family member on July 31, saying Mr Pitts had not been seen since July 24.
Police then issued a public appeal, stating that he had been last seen around 10pm on July 24 when he was taken to the Whitleigh area by the Tower Cabs taxi company.
Another potential sighting of Mr Pitts was recorded for July 25 when it was believed he attended a meeting at the Church of Scientology office in Ebrington Street.
Officers carried out a series of searches around the city for Mr Pitts, who was considered a "high-risk" missing person having been classed as 'vulnerable'.
The Herald has now learned that a member of the public contacted the emergency services on July 25 – before Mr Pitts was reported missing – stating they had seen a man in Paignton.
It is understood paramedics from the South Western Ambulance Trust were sent to the Winner Street area of the town – a short distance from where Mr Pitts' body was found – following the call at 8.45pm.
A spokesman for the Trust said they went to the area "following reports of a male who was unconscious". Paramedics made a search of the area but "no such patient could be found", the spokesman said.
The Trust have been unable to say whether any description of the man reportedly seen was given.
It is also unclear whether police attended the incident.
At the inquest, the coroner reported Mr Pitts "may have taken an overdose of prescription-type medication, as empty boxes were found at the scene."
A spokesman for the IPCC said: "The matter was referred to the IPCC and an independent investigation has started and will look at how information regarding the missing man was handled and the thoroughness of any searches conducted.
"The investigation will also include how the police dealt with a report from a member of the public that they had seen a man taking tablets outside a house in Paignton on July 25."