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Claire praised for supporting autistic man

5 August 2020

A police officer has been praised for going ‘above and beyond’ by the family of an autistic dad who had been conned out of his pension and savings of more than £75,000.

PC Claire Merrell says she drew on her own experiences of being the mum of an autistic son when she took a statement from the victim.

Claire said: “It brought a tear to my eye. I put myself in his daughter’s shoes and just thought if this was my son and he needed help how would he want to be treated? To receive thanks for that is overwhelming.”

She added: “I don’t think I went over and above. I just dealt with this man compassionately, knowing how difficult this must have been for him.”

Her line manager, Inspector Ada Leppard, said Claire’s efforts were typical of her approach to policing.

“The feedback for Claire is not a surprise to me as she is a very caring officer who always has the victim at the forefront of her mind. It is so nice to receive feedback from the gentleman’s daughter about how Claire dealt with him, and how she had such a positive impact on them after such awful crimes,” said Ada.

Claire said that the victim had been groomed by a woman over the last eight years and conned into giving away more than £75,000 in pensions and savings.

“There were also two incidents which involved aggravated burglary and a robbery at gunpoint all imitated by this woman once the victim tried to stop giving her money,” said Claire.

Claire, who is on restricted duties after breaking her elbow in a police accident in December, said she called on her personal experiences with her son, who has dyslexia, dyscalculia, ADHD and challenging behaviour as well as autism.

She said she took the victim to a quiet room to take his statement.

“I made sure I took things slowly,” said Claire, who is based at Bloxwich. “I let him set the pace. I gave him extra breaks to go outside and I made him a cup of tea.

“It was just going at a pace he felt comfortable with and when he got upset, which he did on many occasions, I stopped.”

She added: “I used my training from long ago around cognitive witness statement taking to help him recall names, places and smells, as I’m aware their senses are often heightened. It helped him recall significant information, such as the name of a male we believed conspired with this woman during the robbery.”

The victim did not want the crimes to go to court, said Claire.

“His daughter and he just wanted closure on the episode and for him to be free from her,” she explained.

The victim’s daughter has since taken the step of contacting the Force to express the family’s thanks.

“She went above and beyond to ensure he felt comfortable and at ease,” said the daughter. “She was clear in the advice she gave us going forward, how the police would work to keep us safe and what we could do ourselves.

“She gave him a great deal of reassurance and made something that was so difficult for him much more comfortable. I don’t feel these words even begin to paint the picture of how amazing she was. She is a credit to the Force.

“My family and I would like to thank her more than we could ever put into words.”