Suffolk and Norfolk crime shake-up

MASTERMINDING change is never easy, but for Detective Superintendent Andy Henwood it is a challenge he is looking forward to with relish.The vastly experienced Suffolk police officer will be heading up the new joint major investigation team combining the existing county's unit with that of Norfolk.

MASTERMINDING change is never easy, but for Detective Superintendent Andy Henwood it is a challenge he is looking forward to with relish.

The vastly experienced Suffolk police officer will be heading up the new joint major investigation team combining the existing county's unit with that of Norfolk.

It is a task the affable Det Supt Henwood is tackling with optimism and vigour in the belief that the move will reap benefits for both constabularies.

Suffolk has had a major investigation team (MIT) for around a year, while a similar team has been in place in Norfolk for four years.

When the fusion of teams takes place at the end of this month Det Supt Henwood will be aided by three detective chief inspectors including Det Ch Insp Neil Luckett and Det Ch Insp Rick Munns, who currently work in Suffolk.

The new unit will have a total of 100 staff, including police officers and civilians, based in four locations across Norfolk and Suffolk.

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It will be comprised of an equal number of officers from both forces. They will be based at Martlesham police headquarters, Wymondham, Lowestoft and Bury St Edmunds.

The MIT's remit is to investigate the highest level of crime including murders, manslaughter cases, stranger rapes, kidnaps etc.

There will also be a small team looking at 'cold' cases in the two counties.

Det Supt Henwood said: "The idea of the team is to bring together the two existing teams in a way where we can more efficiently deal with major investigations in the two counties and put our resources where we need to speedily.

"With 100 staff it gives me the ability to move people around for that short period of time, where we need to get officers out on the street for those inquiries in the early stages of the investigation."

With a new structure comes a new set of challenges.

One of the biggest is the huge geographic scope of two rural counties, which span around 110 miles from south Suffolk to north Norfolk.

Det Supt Henwood said: "Another challenge is bringing together investigators from different counties. We are looking to co-locate some of our staff, for example Norfolk officers working from Lowestoft police station.

"People are very supportive of what we are trying to do. Major investigations is probably one of those areas we would look at and say that's an area we can do a lot of collaborative work in."

National protocols and guidance are already in place for all forces. There is also a recognised national computer system known as HOLMES (Home Office Large Major Enquiry System) which is currently used by Norfolk and Suffolk.

One constant feature of the team's work will always be the unpredictability of when, and where, a crime happens.

Det Supt Henwood said: "The nature of major crime is such that a little bit like London buses, they come along in waves. In Suffolk last year we had one homicide. However, in Norfolk it was something like 14 or 15.

"On average it's give or take, seven or so murders in each county in each year, but it can fluctuate from one to twos through to 13s and 14s."

The new squad will be made up of officers who will provide a strong backbone of expertise in major inquiries.

Det Supt Henwood said: "They are experienced police staff who, in the main, know and understand major crime investigations.

"Of course there will be some changes in how we go about things, but what we are trying to do is bring together best practice from both counties and implement that through the whole of the team.

'Our role within major investigations is providing reassurance and confidence in the community.

'It's important that the MIT does its job effectively and efficiently. We know getting a major investigation badly wrong can have a negative impact on people's confidence.

Det Supt Henwood hopes to look back in 12 months time and see a fusion of all that is best in terms of experience and operational expertise,

'I would like to think I would be sitting here saying we have a fully integrated Major Investigation Team which has been able to deal with all the major investigations that have occurred within the two counties, without needed to call on support from other constabularies.'

However, this yardstick will not be the only measure of success, as prevention of crime is also one of his main motivators.

"As well as being a reactive team what I'm keen to get involved in is trying to identify the circumstances in which our murders take place.

'For example we know a good proportion of murders in Suffolk are related to domestic abuse and violence on the streets.

"If we can work with other colleagues and partners to reduce those there should be a reduction in the number of murders we get. I am keen for the MIT to be involved in that.'

Overall, Suffolk police believe there is a positive feel to the merging of the Suffolk and Norfolk MITs, which they believe will prepare them for whatever challenges lie ahead.

That optimism was forged out of adversity. During the murder inquiries into the killings of Tania Nicol, Gemma Adams, Anneli Alderton, Paula Clennell and Annette Nicholls in late December 2006 Suffolk police found itself under intense scrutiny.

Shortly before the arrest of Steve Wright there were uncomfortable questions being posed in the national media about whether the county's force could cope with such a large investigation.

However, Wright's capture and subsequent conviction, demonstrated this was clearly not the case.

Det Supt Henwood said: 'Experience shows we have got the right resources, the right capabilities and expertise to deal with cases which are out of the ordinary.

'At the time what we didn't have was the number of staff and officers we needed to get out on the streets. We were very confident that we had people with the right expertise to lead the operation.

'Looking ahead, I'm absolutely confident we have the right skills and abilities to deal with whatever comes along.'

ANDY Henwood joined Suffolk Constabulary nearly 25 years ago and has served in uniform and CID in Ipswich, Lowestoft, Sudbury, Mildenhall, Felixstowe and Bury St Edmunds.

Det Supt Henwood has worked as a detective including spells in Special Branch and with Suffolk police's major crime unit and throughout his career has been involved in investigating major crimes in different roles and ranks.

He was also second in charge on the Steve Wright murders inquiry in 2006, when he was deputy to Detective Chief Superintendent Stewart Gull.

THROUGHOUT the past 12 months Suffolk's major investigation team has been successful getting a number of predators and dangerous criminals off the streets.

In October last year rapist Robert English was jailed for life after he abducted a 21-year-old woman and knifepoint, bundled her into the boot of his 4x4 and raped her in a mobile home.

The disabled 59-year-old, from Norwich, had duped the woman into helping him with heavy bags outside Tesco in Brandon.

Among the others imprisoned were two violent armed robbers.

Solomon Eastwood, 37, of West Meadows, Ipswich, was locked-up indefinitely after committing three armed raids, two at the same Co-op store in Brantham, the other at a post office in Harleston, Norfolk.

After his sentencing in August police described him as a 'dangerous criminal.'

Armed gang member Alan Loveridge was jailed for eight years earlier this month after he and his accomplices committed two robberies in Newmarket and Barrow.

A shotgun was used in one raid, while a gun was put to the head of a worker in the other.

Loveridge, 43, of Rede Way, Great Cornard had admitted robbery, attempted robbery and two offences of possessing a shotgun during the robberies which occurred in November 2006.

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