Looking back at the investigation

POLICE management of the killings investigation could have “spiralled out of control” had outside experts not been called in, it emerged today.

Neil Puffett

POLICE management of the killings investigation could have “spiralled out of control” had outside experts not been called in, it emerged today.

Detective Superintendent Andy Henwood, officer in charge of the Gemma Adams and Tania Nicol disappearances said that when the third body of Anneli Alderton was found his “heart sank”.

He said: “From that point things were significantly different.

“This was clearly something very out of the ordinary and we felt we needed some support from national experts.

“If there was one job which brought all the challenges, this was it.

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“Communication and teamwork were absolutely essential, we couldn't afford for any element to go off in the wrong direction.

“We had to keep control because it had the potential to really spiral out of control.”

There followed a series of very long and intense days with constant pressure to make decisions.

Det Supt Henwood said adrenaline kept him going through this period.

“Now I can look back with a sense of pride in the part I played.

“Everyone involved had a real determination to get this resolved so we could get back to some sort of normality for Suffolk.”

Detective Superintendent John Quinton, senior investigating officer for the Tania Nicol case, said police were immediately concerned that Ms Nicol may have been abducted and killed due to the lifestyle she lived.

“We were determined to leave no stone unturned until we knew what happened to her.”

“It was 51 days of intense activity.

“It was all-consuming and because of the media attention, everything we did was being commented on at local, national and international level.

“We knew we were in unique circumstances and we had to work diligently and re-assure people that the police service was capable of responding to something of this magnitude.

“There's nothing in the text books to say how you should investigate five parallel murders, so we had to develop our approach as the enquiry progressed.

“It was important to get our procedures right and make sure everybody understood their role and responsibilities.

“Everybody worked together to a common goal to ensure public safety and to arrest the offender.

“It was the ultimate challenge, and without doubt the fact that we realised there was something seriously wrong very early on, helped us enormously.”

Detective Chief Inspector David Skevington, senior investigating officer for the Gemma Adams investigation, said he was impressed by the teamwork of everyone involved in the investigation.

“There was a real 'can-do' attitude of officers coming together from other forces.

“We were working in a really pressurised environment and yet there was a real focus and drive.

“I was working really long hours and saw little of my family. I didn't even know what my children were getting for Christmas.

“I tried to get home most nights, but occasionally would stay at headquarters just because things were happening and developing so fast.

“I don't ever remember feeling tired though - we were too busy for that.

“My family and friends followed this extraordinary case closely. Every time I rang home my six-year-old would answer the phone with 'Hi Dad, have you found Gemma yet?'”

As the investigation went on DCI Skevington's team led on interviewing other prostitutes on behalf of all five murder teams.

Their aim was not only to get as much information as possible but also to keep the women safe and provide them with help and support to move away from prostitution.

DCI Skevington also led on family liaison - a vital part of any investigation as family and friends can provide background information about a victim which can help the inquiry.

“From a professional point of view this was a once-in-a-lifetime investigation to be involved in.

“My training and experience, coupled with some really good advice and support, meant that I learned a lot.”

Detective Superintendent Roy Lambert, senior investigating officer for Anneli Alderton, was involved very early on as he reviewed the investigation into Ms Nicol's disappearance.

Then on Sunday, December 10 he was called to say another body had been found. It came out of the blue as Ms Alderton had not been reported missing.

“From then on it was really manic. That's when the realisation came that we were dealing with something really horrendous.

“The pressure was really on. “We had somebody killing people and we had to stop it. We knew we had to deal with it quickly.

“The media interest snowballed considerably and we had to carry out our investigations under the glare of the media spotlight.”

Det Supt Lambert said it was important to be thorough despite the pressure to get a quick result.

“The first few days of investigation are vital. You have to get things moving and get control of the situation. The investigation completely overwhelms your life and there is little time for anything else.

“Then the pace usually slows a bit but with this case it didn't. Things kept happening. We had multiple crime scenes in such a short period of time.

“We needed to plan and make sure we did everything right and not do anything in a hurry, so we could get the best evidence.

“You only get one go at recovering evidence and if you get it right you can reap the rewards.”

Detective Chief Inspector Stuart Hudson, senior investigating officer for Paula Clennell, said: “It's every detective's dream to be involved in a major incident.

“It was a special time but it was also a sad and tragic time.

“Five women lost their lives for no reason and we wanted to do our best for the women and their families.”

For more than two weeks DCI Hudson barely saw his family as he worked 14-hour days with no time off.

“My wife is a nurse working shifts and we have three young children, but my family was fantastic - they came in and took over, helping to look after the children, allowing me to get on with work.

“Christmas was cancelled, although I did get Christmas Day off. It's my birthday so it was great to spend some time with my family, but I was so tired it is a bit of a blur and I don't really remember it. It was back to work on Boxing Day.”

DCI Hudson was involved in the case until the end of January when the investigations into the murders of Ms Nicholls and Ms Clennell were merged.

Detective Superintendent Simon Dinsdale, of Essex Police, was asked to come to Suffolk to head the investigation into Ms Clennell and Ms Nicholls - who were then missing women.

“Everything happened so quickly.

“To have five murders in 10 days is just unprecedented in this country and the level of national and international media interest was unbelievable.

“To get to my office each day I had to walk past every single major news organisation in Britain and probably the world, whose famous news anchors were all chattering at the same time.

“That was a surreal experience.”

Det Supt Dinsdale worked on average 70 hours a week during the investigation. He said it emotionally and physically challenging but learned a huge amount.

In the end he spent more than three months in Suffolk.

“I had brought virtually my entire MIT (Murder Investigation Team) with me, so I had 11 detective constables, two detective sergeants and an investigative officer on hand to start work straight away.

“Coming to work in a different county with complete strangers, and particularly in circumstances like these, is a bit daunting, but we fitted in very nicely.

“We had five young officers from Ipswich seconded to the team and everybody worked their socks off - with common aims: ensure it didn't happen again, catch the person responsible and get justice for the families of the girls.”