A Chad appeal for the whereabouts of Amber Peat prompted a witness to tell police they had seen her near where her body was found three days later.
Adam Lamb saw Amber on Westfield Lane, 20 minutes after she stormed out of her parents’ home following a row about chores, at 5.50pm, on Saturday, May 30, 2015.
She smiled at him as he passed his car, and he remembered her because she looked like a friend’s daughter.
Mr Lamb thought it was “odd” that she was hanging about on a small green, near the junction with Parliament Road, as no one was there.
“She was looking at bushes like she was going to go into them,” he said.
He reported the sighting at 5.30pm, on Sunday May 31, after reading the Chad’s appeal for information on Facebook, which sparked more than 40 sightings of Amber.
Amber’s family contacted the Chad directly, and the appeal was put out before police released an official statement.
Police went to the area, but they didn’t contact the witness and ask him where he last saw her, or search the area on Sunday, said Detective Chief Superintendent Rob Griffin.
The green was about 1km from Amber’s home, and featured a “very dense” hedgerow that had an “entrance” that was probably made by youngsters forcing their way through.
“Would you have expected officers to look into the bushes?” asked assistant coroner Laurinda Bower.
“I don’t know how thoroughly the officers searched those bushes. You would have been forgiven for not finding Amber,” he said.
“It would have been helpful if they had asked the witness to show them where he saw Amber and to ask for a specialist team.”
CCTV showed that Amber appeared to go straight to the gap in the hedge, but it did not show her emerging again.
On Monday morning, two detectives were appointed to go back through the reports and incident logs form the weekend to work out what hadn’t been done, and to ensure new information was acted on.
Amber’s body was located on Tuesday, when an incident room was set up.
The police officer who discovered 13-year-old Amber’s body, was shown there by Mr Lamb.
“It was immediately clear that she was dead,” said Detective Constable Karl Aram.
“I was very conscious that the witness was nearby and that it was important to establish a scene.”
He said there was no chance the body could have been seen from the pathway, as he had to “lean” into the hedgerow to check properly.
Detective Chief Superintendent Griffin said that in the first five hours of Sunday, May 31, 181 calls were received by police, 61 of which were classed as “immediate” incidents.
On that Sunday, police were also faced with a murder enquiry and a serious stabbing in the city, which also drew resources, he said.
Miss Bowers said: “I don’t think there’s any suggestion of any oversight. It’s just a case of the resources not being available.”
Amber’s mother, Kelly, contacted the police at 0.56am – seven and a half hours after Amber initially stormed out.
PC Nicola Rowe, who visited the family at 4am, on May 31, said: “It was a very busy night and we had been dealing with a prisoner in custody. “There had been an argument after Amber was asked to clean out a cool-box after they had been on holiday.
“She had not been happy about being asked to do that. They heard a door slam and they realised Amber had left the address.
Amber’s mother “seemed quite matter of fact” when describing the situation, said PC Rowe.
“She seemed tired but not particularly emotional,” said PC Rowe. “Maybe frustrated. She referred to Amber’s temper tantrums and what she called attention-seeking behaviour.
“My gut feeling was that this was something that had happened a number of times previously.
“The general consensus was they expected her back the next morning. She usually came back at night and that was why they left it quite late to report it.”
The inquest heard Amber’s parents had searched the area, but had also been to Tesco and had their tea, on Saturday.
Amber had no friends in the area, no money, no mobile phone and no spare clothing.
Officers determined Amber was at “medium” risk, at 6am, because she had done this before.
The inquest heard that a previous risk assessment, by Derbyshire police, suggested that Amber should be graded as “high” risk.
Nottingham police later upgraded the investigation to “high” at 4.54pm, on the Sunday.
PC Rowe said there had been some rain and Amber never came home wet so always found shelter.
“I took this as reassuring that she had always been able to find shelter or that she had somewhere lined up to go to,” she said.
“Potentially she had someone who was harbouring her that her parents didn’t know about,” said the assistant coroner.
The inquest heard the Chad’s appeal sparked a large volume of calls, including claims from “trolls” who said they had harmed Amber.
The inquest continues tomorrow.