POLICE Scotland have been urged to learn lessons after a report found “clear anomalies” in the way the force’s staff handled reports of an abandoned car in which a man was later found dead.

The body of David Penman, 46, was found in his work’s van in a lay-by on a country road in Dunipace, near Falkirk, on December 15, last year. He had died from carbon monoxide poisoning, and there were no suspicious circumstances. A police watchdog investigation found it took three separate calls to a control room on three separate days before officers went to the vehicle and found him.

The Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (Pirc) found there were clear inconsistencies in how the force’s Area Control Room (ACR) at Bilston Glen dealt with the reports and said important lessons must be learned.

The Bilston Glen centre was previously criticised following the deaths of John Yuill and Lamara Bell in July 2015. The couple lay undiscovered for days after a crash on the M9 near Stirling despite a sighting of their wrecked car being reported.

Commissioner Kate Frame said it could not be determined if Penman, who suffered depression, would have lived if police had acted sooner.

The watchdog probe reveals Penman’s van was spotted by a local resident on December 13. He contacted police with concerns the vehicle may have been stolen as he had seen it parked there three days earlier.

A computer check by staff at Bilston Glen found the vehicle was not stolen, was taxed and insured and was owned by a company in Stirling. A police officer closed the incident.

Another member of the public called Bilston Glen the next day, but the report was dealt with by the same officer and no further action was taken. A third call was made by another person at about 7am on December 15 about a lorry in the area.

Officers dispatched to the scene were unable to find the lorry but came across Penman’s van. Pirc found “clear anomalies” in how the control room dealt with the three reports.

The first two were graded as “priority four”, which should have attracted a scheduled police attendance. The last call was graded as “priority two”, which required officers to be sent out within 15 minutes.

The report said it would have been reasonable for ACR staff to contact the vehicle’s owners and either undertake or instruct some form of additional inquiry.

“Had they done so, then concerns about the man’s ongoing depression and welfare might have been discovered and a more informed decision taken about the need for officers to investigate further,” it said.

Pirc says Police Scotland should adopt a “flexible and practical” approach to abandoned or suspicious vehicles and examine all circumstances before deciding whether to act.

Frame said: ““While it cannot be determined that if police had acted when the deceased’s vehicle was first reported, he would have been found alive, there are important lessons to be learned in how police deal with similar incidents in the future.”

She has sent her recommendations to the Chief Constable.

In a statement Penman’s family said: “We will never know for sure whether David would still be alive if more prompt action had been taken initially ... We hope that Police Scotland will take these recommendations on board and that valuable lessons have been learned.”

Police Scotland Assistant Chief Constable Nelson Telfer said after an internal review of the incident, staff had been spoken to and updated guidance has been issued to call-handlers and area control room staff.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “As part of their January 2017 assurance update, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland recognised the significant progress made by the service and we expect the Scottish Police Authority to continue to effectively monitor performance moving forward.

“Police Scotland have made clear they will carefully consider the findings of the Pirc investigation, taking further action where necessary.”