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Can they crack these unsolved crimes?; Retired detectives to sift old killings.

Byline: Deborah James and Clare Usher

A TEAM of ex-detectives is to be brought out of retirement to re-in vestigate unsolved murders in Merseyside.

The Serious Crimes Review Team will search for new lines of inquiry to help solve ``cold cases'' that have gone undetected for up to 40 years.

The team, due to be in place by December next year, is being brought in to take pressure off existing murder teams needed to in vestigate more recent crimes.

Six in vestigators will act as a ``fresh pair of eyes'' on around 22 cases dating back as far as 1964.

They will recommend modern forensic techniques like DNA tests and facial imaging techniques to reexamine evidence .

They will also audit ongoing serious crimes in vestigations and make sure senior in vestigating officers follow best practiceguidelines.

It follows an audit last year which found there have been at least 22 unsolved murders in Merseyside in the last 40 years.

Cold cases, which are re-in vestigated every two years,arecurrently handled by Merseyside's Major Incident Team, which brought all murder in vestigations under one roof at the Force Crimes Operations (FCO) Unit in Mather Aven ue,in 2001.

Previously, each local area had responsibility for its own cold cases, which meant community officers could be tied up on an old case rather than concentrating on new crimes, with no standard approach. Police chiefs now hope the new team will be made up of experienced and retired detectives,like former Det Supt Albert Kirby who led the inquiry into the murder of toddler James Bulger.

Det Chief Supt Nick Houseley, theFCO manager, said: ``We aim to develop a team that can support existing in vestigations when they reach an impasse to ensure they have followed all lines of inquiry .

``They will also review all ongoing cases after 28 days. Sometimes a fresh pair of eyes can come up with a new way of looking at a piece of evidence , or spot a line of inquiry that has not been pursued.

``It also means the major incident team can concentrate on the real time in vestigations without getting dragged into cold case reviews.''

He added: ``We also have a lot of gangland interests in Merseyside and sometimes it needs a new perspective to take an overview and identify links between these operations. '' But,he added: ``We don 't want to raise any expectations; we haven 't got any new evidence on any of these cases as yet.

``We hope to recruit an experienced team from our existing resources, or from people who have retired, so that we don 't lose their skills, but the exact format is still being formulated.''

Det Chief Insp John Colligan, from the major incident team, highlighted several murders where re-visiting cold cases had resulted in success .

The mysterious death of Cynthia Bolshaw was solved in 1999, 16 years after she was found dead at her Heswallhome.

Bodily fluid found on Ms Bolshaw's ne gligee helped identify John Taft with the use of new DNA testing.

And, 2 / 2 years after the murder of Alice Rye, a 74-year-old widow from Spital,detectives compared new evidence with inf ormation from the scene of the crime to catch killer Kenneth Morrison. Det Ch Insp Colligan said: ``Both the Rye and Bolshaw cases demonstrated the value and the benefit of doing these reviews. Had we not done it, we may not have secured these con victions.

``The public doesn't realise how much work goes into an in vestigation, in the case of Alice Rye we conducted something like 2,000 intervie ws and it is incredibly difficult to follow every lead.

``That is why we need an experienced team, because as people in vestigate more cases they get better at extracting the right inf ormation from any intervie wand spotting new leads. Technolo gy chang es all the time and it is important that this team will keep abreast of those and recommend new techniques like DNA testing, to try to shed light on old cases. We will also be looking out for new best practice, for example after the Julie Finley case we set up a system where a Family Liaison Officer is assigned to all families of murder victims.''

It will be the first time Merseyside has intr oduced an ``external'' team to keep tabs on cases.

Det Houseley stressed the team was not being brought in because the current system is failing. Merseyside consistently solves around 90pc of an average 30 to 35 murders every year. He said: ``We want to reassure ourselves that everything that should be done has been done and we are constantly striving to improve how we conduct in vestigations. It will take pressure off existing officers so they can get on with the job of solving recent crimes.

``We just want to reassure the people of Merseyside that we are constantly revising cases to try to resolve them.''

The oldest unsolved case is that of Maureen Dutton who was 27 when she was killed in December,1961. She was stabbed at home while her two young sons were in the house.

Marie-Noelle, the sister of Liverpool student Roland Franco is Carmagnole, murdered in December,1987, said: ``It has been 16 years of pain and sadness and no-one has been caught for the murder of our brother,Roland. ``We believe that someone out there must know exactly who has done this horrible crime. The family would like to thank Det Supt Julieanne WallaceJones for her support and the Family Liaison Officer Mark Grahamfor his help and understanding.''

SOLVED: CYNTHIA BOLSHAW

COMPANY director John Taft was jailed for life 16 years after Wirral beautician Cynthia Bolshaw, pictured, was found murdered in 1983.

Mrs Bolshaw was found nake d, face-down and strang led in the bath at her luxury bung a low in Buffs Lane, Heswall,in 1983.

Taft, of Borough Road,Birkenhead was found guilty in January 1999 of strang ling the divorcee after a case which was dubbed ``the beauty in the bath'' trial.

Liverpool Crown Court heard how the 50-year-old spun a web of deceit to cover his tracks which was only dismantled thanks to advances in DNA science.

The killer had put the body face down to make it look like suicide or alternatively like a botched burglary by placing some of Ms Bolshaw's jewellery in a phone box in Stockport.

Seventeen diaries penned by Ms Bolshaw containing the names and personal details of up to 400 male friends were scoured by detectives over 16 years before detectives obtained the breakthrough they needed.

It came firstly from the extraction from the victim's ne gligee of a DNA sample, the second was damning evidence from the killer's first wife.

He had told Barbara Taft, to whom he was married until 1987, that he was probably the last person to have seen Mrs Bolshaw alive. Taft failed in his appeal against conviction in October, 2000.

UNSOLVED: JULIE FINLEY

JULIE Finley, 23, from Dovecot, was found strangled on August 6,1994 in a carrot field close to the Wheatsheaf pub near the Rainford by-pass.

The young woman, who was kno wn to associate with prostitutes in the Liverpool area, was last seen alive shortly before midnight in Liverpool city centr e.

A cyclist out riding near the Merseyside/Lancashire border found her body the next morning, lying naked at the edge of the field by the A570 between Southport and St Helens.

The discovery sparked one of the biggest murder hunts in the history of Merseyside Police.

Detectives have admitted it is one of the most baffling in recent history and say exactly what happened to Julie is unc lear.

The best lead came from a woman calling herself ``Tina'' who phoned police to say Julie told her she planned to meet a taxi driver from Prescot on the night of the murder.

In August a re ne wed appeal for inf ormation was met with a positive response, say police, but Julie's killer has ne ver been traced.

UNSOLVED: MAUREEN DUTTON

THE oldest murder case that has remained unsolved in Merseyside is that of Maureen Dutton who was 27 when she was killed on December 20,1961.

In a case which became kno wn as theKnotty Ash Murder she was stabbed 14 times at her home while her two young sons were in the house.

Two-year-oldDavid was in distress when found later after apparently witnessing the incident in the living room of the family home in Thingwall Lane. His 22-month-old baby brother was also in his cot.

Mrs Dutton 's body was found later that evening by her husband,Brian, a research chemist at ICI.

More than 50,000 intervie ws were conducted and 35,000 statements taken following the murder. A possible lead came when a man in prison allegedly confessed to the crime but later denied the murder and the admission of guilt. Although the case is not immediately being rein vestigated,if new tech nolo gies or evidence comes to light it will be looked at again by the new team.

CAPTION(S):

BID TO SOLVEOLD CASES: From the left, John Ta ft -identified as Cynthia Bolshaw's murderer,murder victims Julie Finley and Maureen Dutton,and detectives working on the; Knotty Ash murder in 1961:Det Chief Insp John French,next to map, and Det Insp George Armstrong ,second from left; `A FIRST'-; Chief Insp Colligan
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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Dec 30, 2003
Words:1573
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