This is the official blog of ex-Sgt Ellie Bloggs. I was a real live police constable then sergeant for twelve years, on the real live front line of England. I'm now a real live non-police person. All the facts I recount are true, and are not secrets. If they don't want me blogging about it, they shouldn't do it. PS If you don't pay tax, you don't (or didn't) pay my salary.

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Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Real Whodunnit

You've probably noticed the eerie silence from police bloggers on the topic of Joanna Yeates' murder.  It's not because we don't have an opinion on the investigation, the media handling of the murder, nor that we don't have our own theories on whodunnit and how and why.

It's because when it comes to murder, you're into a whole different ball-game of policing.  If I attend a nasty assault where someone's been hit with a baseball bat and is unconscious in hospital with concussion and a brain bleed, that's serious stuff.  I'll be expected to provide an officer to secure the scene, another to travel with the victim and seize his clothing, another to arrest the offender and seize HIS clothing.  CID detectives may do some of this, and will probably poke around the scene and do house-to-house enquiries. They may look at CCTV, or take statements from witness, but more likely they'll ask uniformed response to do it.

If the unfortunate in the above example catches the bat a millimetre higher or lower on his skull, however, and life-changing turns to life-threatening, and then to fatal, the scenario changes.  Major Crime will now oversee the investigation as they make their way from bed, or from the next county over.

I'll now need 3-4 officers to secure an enormous scene, moreover, they'll need to be wearing hats.  I'll need at least 2 officers to arrest every person who's had the vaguest trace of contact with the victim, or anyone who doesn't give a good account of themselves.  If arrest attempts are to take place at addresses, we might need armed support, with roads policing standing by in high-speed cars in case of escapees.  If contact is made with a suspect, the same armed units and roads policing cannot then attend the next arrest attempt, as the defence will allege cross-contamination of DNA evidence.  So this might mean 4-6 officers per suspect.  The same vehicles cannot be used twice either, including ones that have transported officers contacting the victim, or witnesses.

  Real murders are solved like this.

The suspects will need to have their hands taped up in bags, their phones seized, as well as blood samples, photographs of them dressed, then full clothing seizures, swabs from every part of them exposed to the air, hair combings, the lot.  In the example of a street fight, we could be talking 12 uniformed officers and 5 specialist support units absorbed into the job, before you start counting the detectives who turn up to do house-to-house and statement-taking.  On a normal night in Blandmore, that is more than likely my entire shift.  There's an SIO (Senior Investigating Officer) somewhere changing out of his pyjamas in the far south of the force, asking for this and that and the other to be done, and he doesn't care much for the response "Er, we've run out of officers" or "But now there's an armed robbery happening at the Co-op and I need to send someone there".  So my inspector will have to find the troops, whether it means we call on the towns either side of us, or start waking people up.

They are rarely solved like this.

This is a murder for which the suspects are pretty obvious, for which the witnesses are waiting to be spoken to, and where we know what has happened.  The difficulties spiral when the suspect is unknown, there are 5-6 or more scenes of interest, and the media are crawling all over it stamping their feet for immediate results.

So there isn't much for a police blogger to say about the events in Bristol, other than that  I believe over 90% of murders are solved eventually.  You can be sure that whatever resources are needed to investigate it will be found, somewhere.  And whatever secret deals ACPO are pursuing to curb overtime and unnecessary expenditure will fall by the wayside.

Unfortunately, the Real Whodunnits take more to solve than a moustached Belgian with a good gut instinct and an assembly of middle class suspects in a sitting room.  Although perhaps we could look into that as way to save money...

'Diary of an On-Call Girl' is available in some bookstores and online.


Blogger CSI Guy said...

Good post. Very true. Thanks for sharing.

20 January, 2011 17:48

Blogger English Pensioner said...

I just hope the local police are more circumspect about this second arrest, and that the media don't overstep the mark and prevent a fair trial - it was beginning to look as if that could happen with their previous arrest.

20 January, 2011 18:42

Anonymous Lance Manley- Former Stab Proof Scarecrow said...


21 January, 2011 01:47

Anonymous A.J. Wimble said...

Thanks for a facinating post.

21 January, 2011 08:25

Anonymous NottsSarge said...

Very true Ellie.
Strangely, the truest parts are nothing to do with the incident itself:
- There is suddenly overtime money growing on trees;
- Everybody has to wear their hat.

Here there is a third thing that will happen without fail - it will be declared a Critical Incident. We all had to have Critical Incident training before the end of 2010 (mine's in February) because it's been deemed that we, nationally, weren't recognising the importance of some of these jobs in the bigger picture. I think it's actually to give our surfeit of Superintendents something to do as I can generally spot a big job when I'm at one.

The Jo Yeates murder IS a critical incident, I'm sure everyone is working very hard on it and I'm sure they'll get a result

21 January, 2011 09:04

Anonymous Retired Sgt said...

Mais mon ami vous avez oublié les
little grey cells.

Or if you cant pin it on the local wierdo lets try that damn Johnny Foriegner

22 January, 2011 13:53

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting post, thank you. Particularly useful given the chaotic and somewhat less-than-informative media circus that's developed around it.

Just one minor point, and no reflection on the police - it's surely 90% of known murders that are solved eventually? The ones that are never noticed (like, for a very long time, Harold Shipman) would bring the total success rate down a bit.

22 January, 2011 18:31

Anonymous Sergeant Knothead said...

Critical incident. Get a result.

Platitudes R us, Baby.

..... I am a dumb-ass cop!

22 January, 2011 23:22

Anonymous Anonymous said...

doctorhuw If you don't know about them how are they going to bring the success rate down?-

23 January, 2011 22:59

Anonymous NottsSarge said...

I see Sergeant Knothead misses the point once again in a bid to look clever. Do you not think we all realise that it's a platitude, the sort of thing that bosses get rather flushed and excited about while the rest of us just get down to dealing with the job?

No, apparently you don't.

24 January, 2011 16:55

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good post PCB, thank you.

The poor upstairs neighbour/ex-teacher will be keeping his head down for a while, thanks to our wonderful media. They'd have hanged him there and then. "He resigned from his previous teaching job you know..." Ooh how suspicious!

27 January, 2011 12:55

Blogger Live Out Loud said...

Very interesting post on policing in Britian...I'll be back to read more.

03 February, 2011 02:23


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