South Yorkshire Police have been left facing “almost unprecedented demands” on resources following the fifth alleged murder in the space of ten day in the county, one of its most senior officers has said.
The surge in killings has come in the first month of a new Major Crime Unit, designed to investigate the most serious offences which went live at the end of April.
Assistant Chief Constable Tim Forber said the latest incident involved the death of a woman found dead in the Wombwell area of Barnsley today where the “circumstances are such that it has been declared a homicide.”
Officers are now involved in investigating the circumstances of how she died and who may have been responsible, while colleagues still have a mountain of work on the other four deaths in the county.
Although people have been charged over each offence, a substantial workload remains for the detectives who will be responsible for compiling the evidence which will go to court.
ACC Forber said the new crime structure had involved returning many detectives to the policing districts, a move which reverses a previous idea to centralise CID operations at ‘hubs’ covering large areas, along with the major crime unit.
He said the number of murders in such a timescale was “almost unprecedented” and had “stretched the major crime unit over the last week” though he added: “The leadership has been absolutely outstanding in getting us through this period.
“The fact that those four murders have quickly had suspects identified and charged is without a doubt down to their leadership.
“We have had a significant number of staff who have worked through the bank holiday weekend. I would emphasise that just getting an individual charged for a murder investigation is by no means the end of the work, there is an awful lot to get them to crown court.
“The major crime unit structure has been resilient. We will have to look at how we look at the next murder investigation,” he said.
Police are still at an early stage of investigating the Wombwell death, but the previous four were all being regarded as targeted against individuals, he said: “None of these murders, I cannot speak for the one overnight, are random attacks.
“They all appear to be targeted between parties known to each other. That has allowed us to identify who is involved. It is not random violence in the street,” he said.
In addition to the fatality in Wombwell, police have investigated the death of 42 year old Claire Louise Smith, whose body was found in Union Street. Two women, who both live in nearby Britannia Close, have been charged with murder.
In Sheffield, two teenagers died after stabbing incidents, with 19 year old Ryan Jowle losing his life first, following an incident in Woodhouse and Samuel Baker, 15, died in hospital after an incident in Lowedges Road. Suspects have been charged over each death.
A man is also facing prosecution over the death of Emilia Tomkins, who was taken to Sheffield Children’s Hospital with head injuries identified as being non-accidental days before her second birthday.
South Yorkshire Police believe a serious case review, which will examine the circumstances around her care and subsequent death, will follow.