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Could fishing ponds hold key to 11-year-old murder case of Jimmy Millen?
Specialist search teams yesterday began wading through metres of mud to try to find a handgun hidden there more than a decade ago.
Police, acting on a tip off, have begun searching for the weapon which they believe was used to shoot dead Jimmy Millen on October 24, 2001.
It is the first major breakthrough in the case – stifled by fears of gangland retribution – in a decade.
Teams of police divers are expecting to spend all week at the two lakes at Clive Vale Angling Club off Harold Road, Hastings.
Mr Millen’s widow and three children are praying the search will put an end to their years of misery and finally give them the answers they have been searching for.
Detective Chief Inspector Nick May of Sussex Police’s major crime branch said: “Information has come to the police that a firearm used in the shooting of Jimmy Millen is in one of these fishing lakes.
“I have assessed the information and believe it is credible enough that we can’t move forward in this investigation until we have checked out these lakes.
“The specialist search unit of Sussex Police are here to properly search it.
“There is still a £10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible.
“I met Mr Millen’s family for the firsttime last week.
“They were very pleased with this development.
“This is an unsolved murder investigation so is a priority.
“Any information has to be acted on, but we are confident that it is credible.”
The two lakes are around four metres deep at the deepest – but any weapon will have sunk to the bottom where the search teams will be wading through up to two metres of mud and silt.
Mr Millen is believed to have been killed as a result of a gangland assassination.
At the time of his death Sussex Police had more than 100 officers working on the case, yet just over 200 members of the public called in – far fewer than officers would normally expect on a murder case.
Detective Superintendent Kevin Moore – the officer in charge of the case at the time – concluded it was a professional assassination.
He said: “In most murder inquiries you get hundreds or thousands of messages.
“The fact we only got 233 means it is likely to be a criminal underworld hit and the public knew very little about it.”
Jimmy, who had a lengthy criminal record, reportedly told his family that he had been involved in the murder of another man Jason Martin-Smith along with four other men.
Arrests were made during the initial investigations into Jimmy’s death, but no one has ever been charged and the £10,000 rewards is still valid today.
DCI May said yesterday that the two murder investigations were still linked.
He said: “Information at the time seemed to link the two cases.
“This latest development neither adds not detracts from that theory.
“It points specifically to the gun used to kill Jimmy.
“If we find that gun it will be a major breakthrough.
“Obviously we don’t know what state it will be in and it will need forensic and ballistic examination, but recovering that firearm would be a significant development in the case.”
Anyone with any information about the murder of Jimmy Millen should call Sussex Police on 101 Quoting Operation Fare, or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.
October 24, 2001 – Jimmy Millen, 27, was shot dead whilst repairing his Ford Fiesta in Tile Barn Road, Hastings.
October 25, 2001 – Detectives said they believed Jimmy’s murder was a planned gangland assassination.
October 26, 2001 – Jimmy’s father Fred Millen branded his son’s killers “cowards” for shooting him in the back of the head four times.
November 1, 2001 – Sussex Police offered a £10,000 reward to catch Jimmy Millen’s killers.
December 14, 2001 – Police issued sketches of two suspects seen close to where Jimmy was gunned down.
January 10, 2002 – Police launched a second murder investigation linking the death of Jimmy to he suspected killing of Jason Martin-Smith – who disappeared in August 2001. Three men were arrested on suspicion of Jimmy’s murder in dawn raids at addresses across Hastings.
January 22, 2002 – Police increased the reward from £10,000 to £25,000 after revealing they believe Mr Martin Smith was shot dead in Hastings shortly after his disappearance.
January 25, 2002 – A man was arrested on suspicion of the murder of Jason Martin-Smith.
February 8, 2002 – Police said their investigation had been thwarted by a “climate of fear” in the Hollington area of Hastings.
February 13, 2002 – Police dogs are used to search Kelk wood, in Battle, for Jason Martin-Smith’s remains.
June 20, 2002 – Jimmy’s family said he had been involved in killing Mr Martin-Smith. His widow Michelle said Jimmy had phoned her to say he and four others had killed him and that one of the others had chopped the body up and buried his body parts across Hastings.
October 20, 2011 – In the run up to the tenth anniversary of Jimmy’s death, his mother Marion Millen said she “lived in hope” that his killer would still be found.
October 25, 2011 – Jimmy’s widow Michelle criticised the police’s failure to solve her husband’s murder.
September 10, 2012 – Police start searching lakes at Clive Vale Angling Club for the murder weapon
"It will be nice to get some form of closure"
Jimmy Millen’s widow Michelle and middle son Jimmy junior visited the lakes where police are searching for the weapon that may have ended his life.
Mrs Millen said: “This has been a mixture of emotions.
“I definitely have renewed confidence in the police. My confidence has been reassured.
“We had a call last Wednesday to tell us. I was gob smacked.
“But now I’m pretty confident this could give us the answers we have been looking for.”
Jimmy junior, 18, was nine when his father was killed.
He said: “We really hope that something is found.
“It has not been nice all these years.
“It will be great to finally get those answers, not just for us but also my brother and sister and the rest of the family.
“It will be nice to know.
“It has been a long time since it happened, but you just have to cope.
“We need to know who killed him.
“It will be nice to get some form of closure.”