Get involved: Send your news, views, pictures and video by texting SUPIC to 80360 or email us.
Ultimate police work – The Sussex detectives solving the mysteries of murder
According to a saying repeated within police forces across the world, no greater honour can be bestowed upon a human being than to be entrusted with investigating the death of another.
And it is fair to say the senior investigating officers who lead murder inquiries in Sussex regard themselves as working at the summit of their profession.
When The Argus was granted extensive interviews with key members of the Surrey and Sussex major crime team, three messages came through loud and clear.
Firstly the senior officers take huge pride in their work, but they are not one-man-bands, doing all the work and taking all the glory.
They see their mission as providing “grip” – direction and leadership – to a team of people with a range of specialities, with the financial backing of their forces.
And, finally, they exhibit a deep sense of privilege and responsibility to the families of victims and the wider community.
Detective Superintendent John Boshier runs the department. Five detective chief inspectors, three in Sussex and two in Surrey, are responsible for leading inquiries across the two counties, at bases in Brighton, Eastbourne, Littlehampton and Woking.
Det Supt Boshier said: “It is frustrating when you watch some of the TV series and it is the lone wolf officer, potentially with a bag man or woman, who solves the crime singly or double-handed.
“While that is entertaining viewing, it doesn’t reflect the team effort involved in solving any of the inquiries we work on.”
DCI Nick May said: “In terms of credibility, experience, leading murder inquiries is a very valuable thing to do.
"These are roles that people want to do. I can’t think of one that would be better.”
DCI Jeff Riley said: “From the detective’s point of view the most interesting jobs you can work on are the most serious.
“If you join the police service and become a detective you are working on the most interesting type of crime.
“Serious major crime is the ultimate. Where do you go from there, other than counter-terrorism? These are the top-end type of investigations.”
All agree that they have the chance to mobilise all the resources they need to get on top of an inquiry – despite the budget cuts regime which has seen Surrey and Sussex merge their murder investigation departments.
Ch Insp Trevor Bowles’s detectives narrowed down 52,000 crimes to a series of 16 when they investigated attacks on women by Adam Gall in Hastings between 2006 and 2009. He was caught in the act after being granted the services of a surveillance team to track Gall’s movements at night.
In the aftermath of a murder the first 24 hours of an inquiry are the most important.
DCI Riley said: “These investigations are time critical. It is about getting a grip on the inquiry, really progressing it.
“You arrive and you get a grip of the job because you have got access to resources.
“It never ceases to surprise me how much you learn about somebody or the situation within a couple of days of having the team of officers working on it.”
DCI Bowles says: “If you look at failed investigations from around the country, it is often where that initial grip is missing.
“Everyone talks about the first 24 hours. It is so important.”
The officers agree the senior investigating officer role can be all-consuming.
DCI Bowles added: “It is personally exhausting. It is a huge responsibility. I loved the responsibility.”
DCI Riley said: “We do deal with some difficult jobs. Sometimes you’ll come away from post-mortems, particularly if it is a child, and it is quite unpleasant.
There is an overriding feeling of duty to the people who have to live with the consequences of major crimes.
Det Supt Boshier said: “There is a real sense in the team of responsibility and importance of delivering a thoroughly professional investigation for somebody who has died and also provide the best service we possibly can to the family and friends who have survived.”
As DCI Riley said: “The satisfaction – when someone is convicted, you are with the family outside court and they come up and shake your hand and thank you for the job you’ve done – that’s what it is all about.”
Comments are closed on this article.