South Yorkshire sniffer dogs tackle 179 suspects in a year

Jason Pitcher and Paddy the police dog
Jason Pitcher and Paddy the police dog

Police sniffer dogs tracked down 179 suspects at large in South Yorkshire in 12 months, new figures reveal.

The 40-strong team also located stolen property and other evidence in 211 call-outs between April 2013 and 2014.

South Yorkshire Police Dog Section. Police dog Para shows its skills at bringing down an assailant

South Yorkshire Police Dog Section. Police dog Para shows its skills at bringing down an assailant

Specialist dogs also detected firearms, drugs, cash and blood on 97 occasions.

Police have singled out Springer Spaniel Paddy for special mention with a six-year career resulting in the discovery of £1 million worth of drugs and £300,000 in cash. On his first ever job the ‘superdog’ found a one kilo stash of heroin in Bentley, Doncaster.

Other top level results to his name include the discovery of a 1.5 kilo haul of cocaine and £10,000 in cash in Parson Cross, Sheffield.

He also found two kilos of amphetamine and 50,000 Euros in Balby, Doncaster and £8,000 worth of cocaine hidden in conifers in Manor, Sheffield.

South Yorkshire Police Dog Section. John Hare with Michael Radford, left, a puppy walker

South Yorkshire Police Dog Section. John Hare with Michael Radford, left, a puppy walker

Sgt John Hardwick, from South Yorkshire’s police dog unit, said: “It is unbelievable the value they provide in terms of how much they can achieve compared to a police officer’s wages – they can search an entire field in minutes whereas it would take a team of officers an entire day.

“They are an invaluable resource.”

The dog unit is one of a number under threat because of Government funding cuts, with police chiefs considering setting up a regional service to be shared by a number of forces.

“Because of the fact there are fewer police officers these days the availability of a dog’s nose is becoming more and more important – it can save hours of police work if they can find a trail from a crime scene and lead us to a suspect,” added Sgt Hardwick.

In November, police dogs tracked down 22 suspects who were arrested, another 22 in October and 18 in September.

A dog was used in an incident in Parson Cross where a man wanted by police on suspicion of two stabbings fled from the crime scene.

And another sniffed out £48,000 in cash hidden in a car seized by officers in Rotherham.

* People are always trying to find ways of trafficking drugs and money around the country, looking for new places to stash things in cars – but with a dog’s nose they have no chance. We are always one step ahead,” said Sgt Hardwick.

Unit has worked on major cases

South Yorkshire police dogs have been used in some of the country’s most high profile murder investigations over the years.

They were drafted in by other forces to help search for missing 25-year-old York woman Claudia Lawrence, who disappeared in 2009, and when five-year-old murder victim April Jones, from Powys, Wales, went missing in 2012.

Force dog handlers were also used in ‘an advisory capacity’ when three-year-old Madeline McCann went missing from a holiday apartment in Praia da Luz, Portugal, in 2007.

Sniffer dogs have also been used on the Greek island of Kos in the search for missing Ben Needham, from Sheffield, who was 21 months old when he vanished from outside a farmhouse his grandparents were renovating in 1991.

Dog handler Sgt John Hardwick said: “Some of the results have been fantastic.

“When we recover a body it means closure for a family who would otherwise never have known what happened to their loved ones.

“I can’t think of a murder in South Yorkshire where our dogs have not been used – they can find the tiniest specks of blood which are invisible to the human eye which can be crucial to solving a case.”

The 40-strong team of dogs is made up of 25 general purpose dogs, nine which specialise in searching for drugs, firearms and cash, three which specialise in finding firearms and two victim recovery dogs.

There is also one ‘passive drug dog’ used to detect drugs in crowds of people, including revellers walking into pubs and clubs.

Dogs are tested throughout the year for their agility and search and tracking abilities and are constantly having to be re-trained.