The police and cold case reviews

Reading about the successful conviction of Paul Taylor for a murder he committed in Peterborough 30 years previously, thanks to a cold case review and sheer good old-fashioned detective work from Cambridgeshire Constabulary, reminded me of a phone call I had recently.

It was from a man whose brother went missing 11 years previously and was presumed to have been killed as he mixed with a bad lot, and he was hoping a cold case review would result in justice, saying his brother would do the same for him. He contacted me because I write about missing people – they are some of the most frequently read posts on my  blog – and he asked for my advice. His main concern was that police were withholding vital CCTV evidence from him which showed his brother’s last movements, and the police officer who led the original investigation insisted on sitting in when he met the new officer the following day who was going to lead the cold case review. He felt the original officer wanted to hinder, rather than help with the new investigation, and he didn’t know how to discover the truth.

I thought back to this when reading about Sally McGrath, whose murder in 1979 remained unsolved until the case was reopened three years ago, as police reportedly turned a blind against Taylor who had previously repeatedly raped a young woman  in March 1979, three months before Sally’s murder. She was persuaded not to pursue the matter by police officers. Why? Particularly as Taylor went on to viciously attack another woman and violently raped another before becoming a killer. There seems to have been plenty of circumstantial evidence pointing the finger to Taylor after Sally’s death, so why wasn’t all the evidence discovered during the original investigation, especially as DNA was not used to secure his conviction, just thorough detective work?

I hope the police officers responsible for persuading the woman not to pursue the matter are made accountable for their actions. One can’t help wondering how avoidable Taylor’s future attacks and Sally’s death would have been if these had been professional officers who were dedicated to doing their job well, and this means doing everything they could to bring a rapist to justice so he was not free to continue with his violent and murderous attacks, protecting the city’s women.

In spite of this, Cambridgeshire police should be praised for delivering a result after all this time, and this is all the more remarkable because it is believed to be the oldest cold case review solved without the help of new forensic evidence, such as DNA and CCTV.

Cold case reviews mean very much to families whose loved ones have been killed, so please don’t give up on them and their desire for justice.