South Yorkshire police dog trainer who solved string of grisly murders steps down after 50 years

A police dog trainer who helped solve a string of gruesome murders has stepped down after nearly 50 years of service with South Yorkshire Police.

By Darren Burke
Saturday, 2nd April 2022, 4:34 pm

PC John Ellis is finally hanging up his leads and handcuffs after nearly a half a century of service.

Starting his career aged 21 in 1975, John has served the communities of South Yorkshire for an impressive 47 years.

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PC John Ellis has stepped down after an illustrious career.

When John joined South Yorkshire Police he was based at Hammerton Road in Sheffield and after four years as a response officer, John joined the dog section where he has remained since.

John’s love of dogs, and their incredible skills, captured his heart and has seen him travel the length of the country solving some of the most serious of crimes.

John spent the first ten years of his dog handling career partnered up with general purpose dog Ben.

In 1989 he qualified as a firearms officer and worked alongside his firearms colleagues paired with a firearms support dog.

Nine years later, John became involved in dog training, and the following year, the start of an amazing partnership was about to happen when John was asked to train a body recovery dog.

John sourced a dog, a border collie called Frankie, and for the next 12 years the duo were inseparable and instrumental in finding bodies linked to notorious murders.

Some of John’s career highlights include working along PD Frankie in 2002 on a murder investigation.

The body of a murder victim had been transported to the Yorkshire Dales and put into two separate grave areas.

John and his dog’s search started in Kendray, Barnsley, and went up to the west coast near Blackpool and eventually into Cumbria.

PD Frankie discovered a grave in woodland containing the victim’s head and limbs, and the following day a second grave, a few feet away, with the victim’s torso; helping secure a life sentence for the murderer.

In 2004 John and PD Frankie were deployed to Nottingham City Centre when two women were reported missing within four weeks of each other.

John and PD Frankie searched a warehouse that had already previously been searched by officers and found a body buried under a large pile of masonry rubble.

The following day John and PD Frankie returned to the warehouse and PD Frankie continued to indicate to the pile of rubble.

John assumed that PD Frankie was picking up on the odour from the body found the day before.

PD Frankie was persistent and eventually after moving more rubble a second body found. John said ‘that’s when I knew you should always trust your dog’.

During John’s final working day, Assistant Chief Constable David Hartley presented him with a Chief Officer Commendation, which read: “An expression of the Force’s sincere appreciation of your loyal service, this certificate is awarded to mark an impressive 47 years of distinguished public service with South Yorkshire Police.

“Throughout your service you have delivered training to dozens of dog handlers and with PD Frankie you have been instrumental in helping solving many investigations.

“You should take great pride in the legacy you leave.”

"Policing is a role like no other, the days and shifts are long and the emotional impact is tough, a good support network and family is instrumental in an officer’s career."

During a speech at his retirement presentation, John expressed how without the support of his wife, his incredible career would not have been possible, he said: “The hours that policing takes is not possible without a huge support network and I cannot thank my wife enough for her support throughout my 47 years’ of service.”

He continued: “I have worked with some amazing people during my service and seen the great results that dogs can have.

“It has been great to see the younger recruits coming up that will continue the amazing work of the victim recovery dogs.”

John plans to spend his retirement fishing and enjoying holidays with his family.

A spokesman added: “We wish John a long and happy retirement and thank him for his service.”