A Yorkshire police force is hiring 35 new investigators in a bid to solve dozens of unsolved murders and rapes going back several decades.
The additions to West Yorkshire Police’s Major Investigation Review team, which will cost £1.6 million over one-and-a-half years, will be assembled this summer and will be tasked with searching for new leads on the county’s 55 unsolved murders dating back to 1974.
But the police commissioner who has agreed to pay for the extra personnel has admitted the investment may prove to be a one-off because of the scale of government funding cuts to local police forces.
Last December, neighbouring South Yorkshire Police axed its cold case investigation team to save money, with all the cases now being handed over to CID detectives to take on along with their normal workload.
The new investigators, who will be a mixture of new recruits and internal candidates from the force, will focus their attention on cases that are not currently under active review.
Cases to be investigated include that of 71-year-old Leonard Farrar, who was found dead at his home on Cardinal Road in Beeston, Leeds in 2002. The retired merchant navy captain was repeatedly stabbed in what police describe as a sustained attack.
Detective Superintendent Simon Atkinson, from West Yorkshire’s Homicide and Major Inquiry team (HMET), one of the detectives heading up the unit, said new investigators were currently being recruited.
He said: “It will be a case of reviewing those 55 cases to see what opportunities are there. We are always seeing advances in forensic science so we can see if we can apply these new techniques to these cases.
“There could be new information that needs to be followed up or there are intelligence sources we could look at.
“We know allegiances can break down. We know when we have publicised particular cases, even after 20 years we are still getting new sources of information coming forward. This is all about getting answers for families.”
He added that by allowing the new team to focus on historic unsolved murders and rapes, HMET detectives would be able to focus on the “new business coming through the front door every day”.
Mr Atkinson will continue to be lead detective on the high-profile unsolved murders of John Luper, in Leeds, and Lindsay Jo Rimer, in Hebden Bridge, as these cases are under active review.
Crime commissioner Mark Burns-Williamson, who controls the budget for Yorkshire’s biggest police force, said: “I regularly speak personally to families who have lost loved ones or victims who themselves have suffered horrific crimes but never seen anyone brought to account for what happened.
“I have witnessed first-hand the pain and anguish that families and victims have gone through - not knowing what happened, why it happened or who did it.
“You cannot fail to be moved by what people have to say - ordinary folk who have had their lives turned upside down and have had to live with the memory of what happened ever since. The pain never goes away and is made even worse by not knowing what happened.
“There are still people out there, in our communities, enjoying their liberty, who are responsible for terrible crimes. They present a real threat of further harm and need bringing to justice.
“West Yorkshire Police never closes a case until someone is brought to justice but time and resources can mean that a backlog of historical cases can build up which can impact on current cases that also require attention.
“This new team will be part of HMET and focus entirely on cold cases, allowing the current team of detectives at HMET to focus their attention and efforts on current cases.
“There have been some incredible advances in forensic techniques over the years which can help bring criminals to justice from years ago but also mean that the HMET team and Major Investigation Review Team have an ever increasing workload of cases. This is good news of course, but needs to be effectively resourced.
“More and more people who thought they had got away with it are now safely behind bars but there is always more that can be done.
“This money has been found from spending reviews and will fund the team for a year and a half. With more cuts on the way it is hard to imagine such a figure being found again, but in the meantime the aim is to have a big impact on a number of significant legacy cases.”