A police probe has been launched into the deaths of 22 residents at Irvine's Fullarton Care Home during the Covid pandemic.

Police Scotland's major investigation team are leading the probe and have already questioned management and staff.

Fullarton was one of the worst hit when the pandemic began in 2020.

Police Scotland's assistant chief constable Bex Smith said: “We understand how upsetting and difficult this is for the many families who lost loved ones as a result of the Covid pandemic."

She said the force was supporting the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) review into deaths in care homes.

Ms Smith added: "While we continue to gather information, a number of investigations have now commenced at the request of the Crown Office Prosecution Service.

"As the investigations are ongoing it would be inappropriate to comment further.”

A special Crown Office unit was set up in 2020 to examine Covid-linked deaths at 474 care homes in Scotland.

Prosecutors will decide if the deaths should be the subject of a fatal accident inquiry or prosecution.

As Covid cases soared in May 2020, watchdogs found not all staff at Fullarton had been trained in the use of PPE and there was a chronic shortage of carers.

The Care Inspectorate issued a “letter of serious concern” to the home after “staff were observed not to understand, or be following, public health guidance around the control of infection”.

In July 2020 data analysed by BBC Scotland revealed 47 per cent of the deaths from the virus in the North Ayrshire council area could be "attributed" to Fullerton Care Home.

Last year, the care home was praised by for improvements in the way it was run following a series of complaints.

Fullarton is owned by Britain’s largest care home operators HC-One, which has had 523 Covid deaths in its 56 Scottish care homes

A spokesperson for HC-One said: “Our thoughts and sympathies remain with all those who lost loved ones during the pandemic.

"Police Scotland, on the instruction of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, are investigating all deaths that occurred in all care homes across Scotland during this time, and we are cooperating fully and openly in line with this national review.”