Cold case team axed by police as austerity hits

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A specialist police team investigating historic unsolved crimes has been disbanded to save money, South Yorkshire’s county force has announced.

South Yorkshire Police says it has axed its cold case investigation team, with all the cases now being handed over to CID detectives to take on along with their existing workload.

The force says that despite the decision cold cases are “constantly under review” and that “each case has now been assigned to an investigating officer”.

Chief Superintendent Rachel Barber said: “We never lose sight of our unsolved cases and while it is a blow to lose our dedicated cold case investigations team, working within the budgetary constraints meant that keeping this unit going was no longer financially feasible.

“We have found the most appropriate way to manage this situation in the current economic climate, by assigning each case to an investigating officer who is responsible for monitoring and chasing up any enquiries, should any new information come to light.

“However, our efforts and resources are primarily focused on active and emerging cases of serious crime, as these investigations are current and pose a higher risk to the communities and public of South Yorkshire.

“We understand how difficult it must be for those families who have lost loved ones who don’t yet have any closure, but where new evidence or lines of enquiry are discovered, they should be assured that these claims will be investigated and followed up.”

One of South Yorkshire’s cold cases is that of Anne Dunwell, 13, who was sexually assaulted, strangled and left naked at the foot of a manure heap in Maltby in 1964.

The killer has never been identified and it remains South Yorkshire’s oldest unsolved murder case.

South Yorkshire Police has to save £49.2m between 2011 and March 2015. But it is committed to paying the legal fees of former officers appearing before the new Hillsborough inquests and may face a further bill for compensation to victims of child sex abuse in Rotherham.

South Yorkshire Police is said to be exposed to a “significant financial risk” due to its failure to make arrangements for possible compensation pay-outs to the children who were failed in the town over 16 years.

In its own accounts, the force says there is “still significant uncertainty” about how much it will have to pay to cover the legal costs of former officers being represented at the Hillsborough inquest.

Costs reached £5.2m by the end of 2013/14, though a recent report said a Home Office grant of £4.2 million was being discussed after a request for extra funding by former police and crime commissioner Shaun Wright.

Last summer, North Yorkshire Police announced the opening of a dedicated major crime unit, whose roles included looking at cold cases such as the Claudia Lawrence probe.