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Detective's casebook: four force operation secures conviction

DS Chloe Booty tells Police Oracle how officers from four forces overcame different IT systems and processes to secure a conviction on cross border crime

A multi-force operation has secured a conviction in a County Lines case involving serious violence.

The judge praised the complex work by the lead investigating officers after a man was jailed for 15 years in Ipswich for robbery, aggravated burglary and blackmail in a case dating back to 2019.

Tye Parker, 23 of Harwich, was sentenced this week after being found guilty by a jury on 4 March after a trial at Ipswich Court.

The Metropolitan Police, Essex Police, Suffolk Constabulary and the West Midlands Organised Crime Unit had each begun an investigation following a series of linked offences carried out in different parts of England.

On the night of 19 February 2019, a 23 year old male driving a hired white Mercedes car in Colchester when another vehicle pulled in front of him. Three people got out of the car and the driver of the Mercedes was then assaulted and left in the street after his iPhone, the car keys to the Mercedes and the man's shoes were taken. 

The same three suspects then drove to the victim’s Dagenham home and at about 1.35am on 20 February broke down the door and one male threatening the occupants with a handgun. When the offenders realised the police had been phoned the trio fled the scene.

On 4 March 2019 a 24-year-old woman was approached in Ipswich with demands made to her that she resolve a drug debt where she owed in the region of £10,000. The following day the court heard how the 24-year-old woman was driven to Tottenham and kept captive at an address there in the loft area, while an associate of hers was asked to repay the drug debt.

Only on 8 March, the victim was able to escape the loft and raised the alarm at nearby neighbours.

On 16 March 2019, the 53 year old tenant of the Tottenham property where the woman was held captive, was also taken against his will and kept in a property in Wolverhampton. Following enquires he was located by police unhurt. Parker was found hiding in the loft – he was arrested and subsequently charged.

During a search of the property in Wolverhampton, various mobile phone, SIM cards, various knives were located.

The core part of the investigation was possible because Suffolk and Essex are on the Athena investigation management system. However the Met and West Midlands are not. 

Investigating officer Detective Sergeant Chloe Booty told Police Oracle: “I was able to see they had identified Parker as a suspect through some CCTV and phone work.”

When other forces realised the significance of the offences, they quickly picked up activity.

There were challenges: “Shift patterns don’t match up and we don’t all use the same processes. But we’re all coppers and we want to get the job done,” says DS Booty.

But she added: “Every officer I spoke to was enthusiastic about helping. All of the officers could see it was important. The fact that the offenders had moved around was an important part of the investigation. Everybody could see there was serious offending – real blackmail and real people at risk.”

Senior officers were also prepared to take on specific tasks: a member of the West Midlands Organised Crime team went to a budget supermarket to obtain crucial CCTV evidence.

One challenge involved getting fingerprint evidence from the Metropolitan Police – DS Booty was working with three different departments.

Getting the case to court was also challenging; there were three trials to get to the final verdict.

The force has highlighted the case as part of work to show that County Lines is a priority and officers will find ways to secure convictions.

DS Booty told Police Oracle that Suffolk will take on more of these prosecutions: “We’re going to have to continue – especially as County Lines offenders try to operate across different areas to complicate things.

“Without the partner work, it would be impossible to catch them. But we’ve proved we can do it – and we will gain. Hopefully, this will serve as a lesson that Suffolk police take these matters seriously and deal with them robustly.”

It comes just days after the force served its first-ever Slavery and Trafficking Risk Order (STRO) on an 18-year-old who officers believed was exploiting a 15 year old for the purpose of selling Class A drugs.

Safeguarding measures in the order included not supplying anyone under 18 with a phone or arranging travel or residing with someone under 18.

Suffolk has steppeed up cross border prosecutions during the last year; it is also part of a seven force partnership tackling hare coursing gangs.

There are questions that remain unanswered from the Suffolk case – and highlight the challenges of tackling these kinds of offences.

The main suspects had quickly befriended each other before escalating their offending.

There has been no explanation as to why Parker, who had no previous convictions and wasn’t on any intelligence reports, suddenly went on a violent crime spree.

He was recorded in one conversation saying the events had been “like being in a movie” but he denied the offences throughout the trial and has given no explanation.

He now has a long prison stretch ahead to reflect on his actions and their impact.

DS Booty said: “There were witnesses and victims who have been left distraught and had their lives turned upside down. I don’t think anybody has walked away from this unscathed.”

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