Posts Tagged ‘Cambridgeshire Police’

Many fictional crime stories I have read tend to paint the police as competent, up against a suspect who is clever at the outset but is finally caught and brought to justice.

The reasons for the time delay between the commission of the crime and apprehension allows for the fictional story to be spread across hundreds of pages and introduce many characters and pieces of information to aid the reader in their decision-making as to who did it.

In real life, the time between the commission of the offence and apprehension usually occurs through the vast amount of information that has to be gathered and sifted before a suspect is identified, unless the suspect is know from the outset but this would make for a relatively short work of fiction.

However, there are times in real life when the delay in catching the suspect is created by the incompetence (in a very few cases) of the police or the cleverness of the suspect to manipulate the crime scene to such an extent that they manage to hide or disguise many of the clues that should have been found fairly quickly.

Take for instance a recently reported upon crime involving the death of an elderly lady, Una Crown in her own home in Wisbech, Cambridgshire.

Though one won’t find crime tape around an archaeological site, these two disciplines have many similarities (“Crime-scene-tape”).In a nut-shell, the first attending officers decided from what they could gather from the crime scene, that the victim had died accidently.  They concluded that she had fallen onto her cooker and in a panic suffered a heart attack and died.  This assumption, with hindsight, was a bit too quick to come to but when faced with a body that is either very badly burned (as in this case) or decomposed, it can be difficult to see conflicting evidence on the body such as stab wounds or bruising.  Even if they have been seen, the officers may think that they have been self-inflicted, especially when they have been presented with information suggesting suicidal tendencies on the part of the victim (not in the case of Una Crown).

This is why there will be a post-mortem in all instances where the death is unexpected and/or of a violent nature.  In the case in question, not only was the body badly burned (i.e. violent in nature) but it was also unexpected in that she wasn’t being treated for an imminently terminal illness.

It was at the post-mortem that stab wounds were found to the victim’s neck and chest, leading to the death being considered particularly suspicious. Had this been spotted from the outset, the scene should have been treated as a crime/murder scene.  A lot of evidence would have been gathered from the house and a great deal of information would have been uncovered about the victim and in all probability, the suspect.  As it was, the officers who first attended the house saw nothing they thought suspicious and so didn’t treat the scene accordingly.

This may smack of incompetence on their part but to give such an error credibility in your stories, you could consider any or all of the following:

  • The officers that attended the scene first were inexperienced, new to the job and failed to recognise the gravity of what they were confronted with.
  • The officers may have been more experienced but generally incompetent, especially when it came to crime investigation.
  • The officers could have been under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  • The officers could have become blasé because they had attended several natural sudden deaths recently and saw this as just another.
  • They may have attended a sudden death in the past, called out the Senior Investigating Officer (SIO) only to be rebuked and ridiculed by the SIO for not seeing the obvious signs of a natural death or a clear case of suicide.

To give the suspect more credibility, it could have been a deliberate act by them to stage the crime scene: to make it look like one incident rather than what it actually was.  It’s not unusual for a husband to make his killing of his wife look like a bungled burglary by smashing a window to the property before giving it a ransacked appearance.  Their intention being to make the police think that the wife had disturbed the burglar in the act and had been killed by that burglar so as to prevent their subsequent identification.

It has been known for suspects to stage a murder to look like a suicide or an accident, similar to this case.  An elderly person could be expected to have a heart attack late in life or even a fall due to being unsteady on their feet.  They may just be unfortunate enough to fall onto their gas or electric fire and the burn injuries may well cover up strangulation or heavy blows to the head or body.

Would you rather go for the incompetent cop or the clever murderer in your stories?

For more information about the case in question follow:

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Many of us in the UK have resorted to buying and fitting an electronic navigation aid in preference to thumbing our way through creased, grubby maps and gazetteers.

Whilst there are many advantages to using a Sat Nav, how many of us have got lost when relying on them or ended up going a longer way around a town than needed.

You either love them or hate them but when it comes to fiction, where do you stand?

Have you incorporated them into a story yet and if not why not?  I know they don’t sound the most glamorous of items but when you have digested the following, you may just change your mind.

In August 2011, a Lithuanian born Vitalija Baliutaviciene was reported missing by her young son when she failed to return home at the end of the day.  She had previously been threatened and assaulted by her ex-husband who had followed her to Cambridgeshire in the UK following their divorce.

Thankfully the local police took her disappearance seriously and began a detailed investigation, which led them fairly quickly to suspect her ex-husband, Rimas Venclovas.  It appeared from analysis of CCTV and Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) footage that he had attacked and abducted his ex-wife in the UK on her way to work.  He had bundled her into his van and within 58 minutes had killed her before driving off.  Her body could not be found anywhere near the site of attack or abduction.

To see video footage of the abduction click here

By virtue of the fact that both people were Lithuanian, this became an international investigation, especially as Venclovas couldn’t be located at first. 

Following painstaking mobile telephony enquiries Venclovas was arrested in Lithuania for the murder and Kidnap of Vitalija but her body was nowhere to be found.  His van, which was recovered revealed no clues, nor were any found at his home address.  However, amongst property seized from him was the Sat Nav from the van he had been seen driving in the UK.

This is the first known case where a Senior Investigating Officer (SIO) has exploited the data of a Sat Nav to the extent seen in this case. Despite being told by the manufacturers that only limited data could be extracted from the Sat Nav, he continued to seek further information from the equipment, finally succeeding in recovering its ‘inner files’.

These were analysed and they revealed that Venclovas had travelled from Lithuania to the UK and back around the time of the disappearance of Vitalija.

It was considered possible, using the data from the Sat Nav that her body could have been dumped anywhere along the route, he had travelled across 6 European countries after leaving the UK.

Cambridgeshire Constabulary Creating a safer CambridgeshireThe Cambridgeshire Constabulary detectives (part of the Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire Major Crime Unit) identified from analysis of the Sat Nav that Venclovas had stopped at various points along the route back to Lithuania.  They asked Interpol to circulate the co-ordinates of these stops to the police in the respective countries.

The police in Poland responded, reporting the discovery of a female body, buried in a shallow grave in the region of Lutol Suchy, Poland, within 50 metres of one of the sets of coordinates.  The body was identified through DNA as Vitalija Baliutaviciene (the ex-wife of Venclovas).

After a 7 week trial at The Old Bailey, a jury unanimously convicted Venclovas of Vitalija’s murder and kidnap. He was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment.

Watch the BBC Crimewatch programme about the case here

So, as you can see, the outcome of the thorough analysis of the Sat Nav was a fully mapped journey of a kidnap and homicide, the recovery of a body and most importantly, a conviction for murder. 

Would this example help you develop your story or could your killer find a way to thwart the investigation (other than not using a Sat Nav in the first place)?

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