Force re-hiring 27 detectives for unsolved cases

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SCOTLAND’S largest police force is spending almost £400,000 re-hiring 27 retired detectives to investigate unsolved cases.

New charges to the law mean unresolved cases dating back 30 years can be investigated again.

The Double Jeopardy (Scotland) Act 2011, which came into force in April, allows certain suspects who have been acquitted to be retried.

Strathclyde Police hopes the 27 officers will help them investigate cases they “couldn’t touch previously.”

The legislation has given hope to the family of Surjit Sing Chhokar, who was murdered 13 years ago in Overton, Lanarkshire.

Though there have been two trials, no one has ever been convicted of Mr Chhokar’s murder.

 

Supplement

Other cases are thought to include 16-year-old Elaine Doyle, killed in 1986 and Jacqui Gallacher, who was killed in 1996.

Chief Constable Steven House said the officers, who will be hired through an agency, would be steered away from working on cases they had been assigned to previously.

Mr House said: “We’re looking for about 27 officers to supplement the work of Serious Crime Review team.

“We can’t go down to the local job centre and look to recruit people to these jobs.

“We need people with existing police skills.

“We’re in a little bit of a peak just now and have 20 to 30 years of cases we couldn’t touch previously.

“I think taking through an agency is the most cost-effective way of doing this.

“The agency will interview and assess whether the candidates have the right skills.

“Typically, we’re looking at people who have been detective constables. We’re not recruiting lead officers.”

 

Aquitted

 

It is understood the officers, who will be recruited for six months, will be brought up to date with the latest police procedures.

Prosecutors have ordered several cases to be re-opened and other unresolved cases to be continued.

Ronnie Coulter, 43 was put on trial for the murder of Mr Chhokar at the High Court in Glasgow, but was aquitted.

His nephew Andrew Coulter, 30 and another man David Montgomery, 34, were put on trial in 2000 but were also cleared.

Ronnie Coulter, from Gowkthrapple in Wishaw, North Lanarkshire, had blamed the other two men during the trial.

He was later convicted of contempt of court for giving evasive answers and attempting to create confusion.

Andrew Coulter was sentenced to six years in jail for another knife killing in the area.

 

Scarred

 

Mr Chhokar had lived in the same tower block as the Coulters, and died after an confrontation with a group of white men outside the building.

The case hit headlines again earlier this year when Ronnie Coulter’s mother Mary, 76, was horrifically attacked with a machete, leaving her scarred for life.

The scene of the attack was just yards from where Mr Chokkar was killed in 1998.

Other unsolved cases include the murder of 16-year-old Elaine Doyle in 1986.

She had been sexually assaulted and strangled yards from her home in Greenock, Renfrewshire, but no one was ever put on trial for her killing.

There was a breakthrough in 2003 when DNA evidence was found, and last year police in Autralia were contacted by Strathclyde Police to obtain DNA swabs of six people.

 

Not proven

 

Separately Jacqueline Gallacher, who worked as a prostitute in Glasgow’s city centre, was found dead in 1996.

Her body was found badly battered.

George Johnstone was put on trial over the killing but the jury in the case delivered a not proven verdict.

He served three years in jail for killing another woman in a car crash but was never foung guilty of Ms Gallacher’s death.

Amanda Duffy was killed two decades ago in Hamilton South Lanarkshire, and it is understood recently spoke to the prime suspect in the case.

Police were said to have spoken to Francis Auld at his home in Worthing, Sussex.

He was put on trial for the 19-year-old’s murder but walked free from court after also being found not proven.

Her body was found on waste ground in Hamilton on 30 May, 1992, and her parents have campaigned for the not proven verdict to be scrapped.

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