A cold case specialist police team is to be set up to investigate 26 unsolved murders in South Yorkshire – two years after an identical squad was axed to save cash.
Police said today ‘we owe it to the victims and their families’ to try to bring their killers to justice.
The force’s successful cold case review team was closed two years to cut money – despite securing 11 convictions and sentences of 107 years in its first three years.
The new team will examine cases including the stabbing of 25-year-old prostitute Michaela Hague on Bonfire Night 2001, and murder of 13-year-old Anne Dunwell, who was sexually assaulted, strangled and left naked at the foot of a manure heap in Maltby, Rotherham, in 1964.
Other cold cases include Sheffield teenager Dawn Shields, who was strangled and her body dumped on Mam Tor, Derbyshire, in 1994, Nora Tait, 69, who was bludgeoned to death in her Doncaster home in 2005, and 80-year-old Vera Cooper, strangled in her Grimethorpe home in 2002.
The major incident review team was scrapped two years ago when police said it was ‘no longer financially feasible’ to continue to run the specialist team.
But now Police and Crime Commissioner Dr Alan Billings has approved the use of £321,000 to run a new team for a year.
Dr Billings said today: “These, as yet unsolved crimes were very serious and we owe it to the victims and their families to continue the work of bringing the perpetrators to justice.”
He said the cold case investigation team was disbanded to meet financial targets but added: “Both SYP senior officers or I as PCC believe that a new initiative to tackle some unsolved homicides was essential.
“We owe it to the bereaved families to do this. It is also essential for public confidence if people are reassured serious crime of this nature are thoroughly investigated.
“I have been able to find funding in the budget for the formation of this Major Incident Review Team.”
Temporary Detective Chief Superintendent Lisa Ray, Head of Crime, said: “While our efforts and resources are primarily focused on active and emerging cases of serious crime, we have never lost sight of our unsolved cases and understand how difficult it must be for those families who have lost loved ones.
“The major incident review team will hopefully be up and running in October this year, and will begin reviewing the 26 unsolved none recent homicides.
“The formation of the new team will enable staff to be dedicated to reviewing investigative opportunities for the non-recent cases, proposing and developing any new lines of enquiry and conducting a scoping exercise for any potential forensic opportunities, as well as ensuring all relevant intelligence is collated and submitted accordingly.
“I am confident the new team will be an invaluable addition over the next year and will assist greatly in reviewing a number of cases, to aid and progress the none recent homicide investigations, with the overall aim of achieving justice for the families.”
Neil Bowles, chairman of the South Yorkshire branch of the Police Federation, said: “The return of a cold case review team is just another example of the blind budget cuts that South Yorkshire Police have undergone.
“No thought was given to the consequences of salami cuts, the threat and risk ignored.
“We welcome its return, because serious offenders have to be brought to justice, or else they may go on and commit further serious offences.”
Daniel Grainger, who was five when his 25-year-old mum Patricia, was stabbed, sexually assaulted and strangled in Parson Cross, Sheffield, in 1997, said he was pleased the new team is to be set up.
The 23-year-old carer, from Lowedges, Sheffield, said: “It gives me more confidence knowing there will be a dedicated team looking at my mum’s case, looking for that vital bit of missing evidence which could solve the case.
“There is still a murderer out there somewhere and you just don’t know if they will do it again.
“I am hopeful now that with people looking at the case again with fresh pairs of eyes we may get the breakthrough we need to get justice.”