'Unprecedented' number of murders in South Yorkshire all 'unconnected'

South Yorkshire Police's top cop has praised the work of his officers and detectives following an 'unprecedented' five murders in the space of just two weeks earlier this year.

Friday, 3rd August 2018, 3:30 pm
Updated Monday, 6th August 2018, 8:23 am
Chief Constable Stephen Watson.

Chief Constable Stephen Watson said all of the incidents were 'unconnected' and was something that the force could not have prepared for.

The crime spree began on May 19 when Claire Louise Smith, 42, was found dead in Union Street, Barnsley.

Chief Constable Stephen Watson.

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Three days later, 22-month-old Erin Tomkins, from Gleadless Valley, died at Sheffield Children's Hospital, having being admitted with head injuries the day before.

The following day - Wednesday, May 23 - Ryan Jowle, 19, was stabbed to death in Tannery Close, Woodhouse.

And on Thursday, May 24 - Samuel Baker, 15, was also stabbed to death after being attacked in Lowedges Road, Lowedges.

On Thursday, May 31, Sheffield massage parlour boss Jill Hibberd, 73, was found stabbed to death in her home.

Chief Con Watson said: "It was really tough because it was just unprecedented. To have that number of very significant incidents occur within a very short space of time almost can't be anticipated because it had never happened before so by definition you can't really gear yourself up to deal with that.

"The volume of murders we experienced came right on the back of us implementing the findings of our investigation review so we had just gone to the new model and it could not have been a better test for the resilience of the new model."

There have been a total of eight murders in South Yorkshire since the start of the year, with suspects charged in seven of the cases.

The first murder of the year was committed in March, when 22-year-old Jarvin Blake was stabbed to death in Burngreave, Sheffield, as children were making their way home from school.

The dad-of-three was stabbed in his chest when a group of men jumped out of a car and chased him and a friend, who was also seriously assaulted.

Four men arrested over the murder have all been bailed pending further enquiries.

Mr Watson said: "The professionalism and resilience of our people in overcoming those challenges was truly impressive and for all of those murders we have obtained charges as a result of first-class investigations.

"I hope that it is of some comfort to people that while we had an unprecedented amount of murders, they were unconnected to the other. They were a series of unconnected events, which sadly do occur from time to time. They just came together at the same time.

"The thing that links them is the just the period of time they occurred. Nothing else really linked them and it would have been far worse had there been a string of murders linked to the same originating offender because therein lies a great problem.

"It created a great strain but actually having visited the major incident rooms and seeing what staff had done and how they managed it was just a great example of how hard they have worked and moreover, the professionalism of the investigation they have put together."