Cold case review team in bid to help put South Yorkshire murderers who have evaded justice behind bars

Fatal shootings, stabbings and attacks for which nobody has ever been jailed are being reviewed by South Yorkshire Police in a bid to rid the streets of killers and seek justice for grieving families.

By Claire Lewis
Wednesday, 25th September 2019, 2:11 pm
Updated Saturday, 28th September 2019, 4:42 pm

South Yorkshire Police’s major incident review team was re-formed in December 2018 after funding cuts led to its predecessor disbanding as the force battled to balance the books.

Its remit is to review and re-investigate unsolved murders, rapes and sexual assaults, with 36 deaths among the South Yorkshire cases for which nobody is behind bars.

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Dave Stopford runs South Yorkshire Police's cold case review team

The oldest murder on the force’s books dates back to 1962, when Lily Stephenson, a piano player, was sexually assaulted and bludgeoned to death in Springfield Place, Barnsley, as she made her way home from a local pub.

The most recent unsolved murder in the county is that of 21-year-old Kavan Brissett, who was stabbed to death in what is being treated as a targeted attack when violence flared off Langsett Walk, Upperthorpe, last August.

L-R: Steven Cook, Rachel Morton, Dave Stopford and John Stenton, who are members of South Yorkshire Police's major incident review team

But that investigation is still live, with detectives actively seeking a man believed to hold vital information about the attack.

The major incident review team looks at the older cases which have dogged the force for years, with four-month old Nikita Hudson the youngest murder victim.

She died from non-accidental head injuries after she was found in Nottingham Street, Burngreave, in July 1994.

The oldest two murder victims, in cases where nobody has been jailed, were both 80 years old.

Vera Cooper was found strangled in her home on Greenbank Walk, Grimethorpe, Barnsley, in January 2002.

Tommy Ward was brutally attacked during a robbery in his home in October 2015 and he died four months later. His life savings were stolen in the raid.

Dave Stopford, a retired detective of 34 years, runs the major incident review team and said staff are driven to seek justice for murder victims and their families.

The team has ranked the cases in order of their ‘solvability’ based on factors including the potential for successful forensic hits and the number of potential witnesses still alive.

The risk the killers are believed to pose if they are still alive is also considered.

Files are reviewed to check that all possible lines of enquiry were followed up at the time, and forensic evidence retained by the force is assessed to look at whether extra testing could be beneficial because of advances in science and technology.

Mr Stopford said: “We look at every undetected homicide and put them through a matrix looking at things such as the risk offenders pose, the solvability of the case, forensic opportunities and the possibility that witnesses connected to the case may be more likely to assist us now thanks to the passage of time than they perhaps were at the time.

“But we also have to be mindful that there could be more advances in technology in the future so if we run exhibits for forensic testing now we may not be able to use those exhibits again in the future. Everything has to be carefully considered.”

He added: “These are not ‘cold cases’ to grieving families. Their emotions today are just as raw as they were at the time and they still want justice. They live with the ‘not knowing’ every day.”

Mr Stopford added: “Seeking justice now is just as important to us and families as it was when the murders were first reported. There are people who have killed victims who we need to identify.”

He said technology is a huge help to detectives solving crimes today compared to decades ago.

“We are really up against it when we review the older cases because there is usually no CCTV or phone records, for example, which we take for granted these days,” Mr Stopford added.

“We have boxes of paper records to go through and some exhibits in the main. There is also always the chance that witnesses have died.

“But despite the challenges we are determined to solve as many of these cases as we can.”

Anyone with information on any of the cases should call South Yorkshire Police on 101 or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555111.


*1962 – Lily Stephenson – sexually assaulted and bludgeoned to death in Springfield Place, Barnsley, on her way home from her local pub.

*1964 – Anne Dunwell – 13 year-old girl sexually assaulted and strangled on waste land in Slade Hooton, Rotherham.

*1975 – John Wortley – 66-year-old car park attendant attacked with a fire extinguisher on Pond Street in Sheffield city centre.

*1977 – Barbara Young – 28-year-old woman found with head injuries in the Netherall Road red light district area of Doncaster.

*1982 – Tervina Cameron – 59-year-old woman strangled in a house in Addy Street, Upperthorpe, which was later set on fire in an arson attack.

*1989 – Saifuddin Hussein – a 36-year-old homeless man was found fatally injured in a car park on Blonk Street in Sheffield city centre.

*1991 – Wendy Gallagher – found strangled in her home in Princess Street, Barnsley. A suspect was acquitted of murder after a trial.

*1993 – Edna Waller – 79-year-old woman robbed and murdered near her home in Bramwell Gardens, Netherthorpe.

*1994 – Dawn Shields – 19-year-old sex worker found strangled on Mam Tor, Derbyshire, after being picked up from Broomhall in Sheffield.

*1994 – Andrew Trail – stabbed at Desmond's Blues Club, Hallcarr Street, Burngreave, Sheffield.

*1994 – Nikita Hudson – four-month-old girl found with non-accidental head injuries in Nottingham Street, Burngreave, Sheffield.

*1996 – Roger Ward – fatally injured during a late night altercation outside a restaurant in Cumberland Street, Sheffield. A suspect was charged but was discharged at court.

*1996 – Andrew Bentley – shot at the rear of Flying Pizza, Glossop Road, Sheffield city centre. A suspect was identified but deemed unfit to be interviewed due to a medical condition.

*1997 – John Wilson – attacked with a length of wood in Rushby Street, Grimesthorpe, Sheffield. A suspect was charged and remanded to a secure hospital but was not convicted.

*1997 – Patricia Grainger – mum-of-one found strangled and sexually assaulted near Hartley Brook, Parson Cross, Sheffield.

*1998 – Michael Baxendale – 39-year-old nightclub owner stabbed outside Niche in Sheffield city centre.

*1999 – Michael Marples – assaulted outside the Trades and Labour club, City Road, Sheffield. A suspect was found guilty of manslaughter but the conviction was quashed.

*1999 – Frederick Revill – attacked in his home in Lancing Road, Highfields, Sheffield, by two men. One man was acquitted of manslaughter after a trial.

*2001 – Richard Cunliffe – found injured outside Doncaster Cricket Club, Bennethorpe, Doncaster. A suspect was identified but the case was withdrawn at court.

*2001 – Lindsey Scholes – teenage girl killed in an arson attack at a house in Millgate Street, Royston, Barnsley.

*2001 – Brian Metcalfe – 44-year-old found stamped and kicked to death on Station Road, Wath, Rotherham, after a night out.

*2001 – Anthony Murphy – found stabbed on Castlebeck Avenue, Manor, Sheffield. A suspect was charged and found not guilty at court.

*2001 – Michaela Hague – prostitute found stabbed on a remote car park off Spitalfields, Sheffield city centre.

*2002 – Vera Cooper – 80-year-old strangled in her home in Greenbank Walk, Grimethorpe, Barnsley.

*2002 – David Marlow – 39-year-old assaulted in Dyche Lane, Jordanthorpe, Sheffield.

*2005 – Nora Tait – 69-year-old woman found with fatal head injuries in her home in Stone Close Avenue, Hexthorpe, Doncaster.

*2005 – Anthony, Patricia and Stephen Brightmore – killed in an arson attack at their home in Batemoor Walk, Batemoor, Sheffield, after a wheelie bin was set on fire. A teenager was found not guilty after a trial.

*2006- Ibrahim Ilyas – shot in Osgathorpe Road, Grimesthorpe, Sheffield. One offender was found guilty at court. Another is still outstanding.

*2009 – James Kamara – shot dead in a drive-by shooting in Brunswick Street, Broomhall, Sheffield. A suspect was acquitted at court.

*2009 – Safrajur Jahangir – delivery driver shot dead in Scraith Wood Drive, Shirecliffe, Sheffield. Six suspects were charged but the case collapsed at court.

*2012 – Joshua Green – stabbed at the Stars and Mayfair Club, Queens Road, Sheffield.

*2014 – Jordan Thomas – shot on Derek Dooley Way. One offender was convicted. Others are on the run.

*2015 – Andrew Kelly – strangled in his home in Victoria Street, Goldthorpe, Barnsley. A suspect was acquitted at court.

*2016 – Christopher Cumpsty – found with a head injury in Cross Street, Balby, Doncaster.

*2015 – Tommy Ward – 80-year-old robbed and assaulted in his home in Maltby, Rotherham.

*2018 – Kavan Brissett – 210year-ild stabbed during a disturbance off Langsett Walk, Upperthorpe.