Detective Chief Superintendent David Baker

Posted by ac555 at Mar 31, 2015 10:55 AM |
The real-life David Baker who initially approached Dr Alec Jeffreys in 1984 to use his technique recalls this life-changing time
Detective Chief Superintendent David Baker

Source: ITV Press Centre

What was your role within Leicestershire Constabulary when the investigation into Lynda Mann’s rape and murder began in November 1983?

I was a Detective Chief Superintendent and Head of CID. So I was in charge of all the crime investigation in the county.

Can you tell us about Lynda Mann and the circumstances of her death?

Lynda Mann was a 15-year-old girl who left her home in the early evening to visit a friend in Enderby. She lived in the next village, Narborough, but never reached her friend’s house.

She was reported missing from home at about 11 ‘o clock that night when her parents returned from the local pub. We mounted a search, as much as we could at that time of night. But we had no idea where she had gone or where she was.

It wasn’t until the early hours of the next morning when an ambulance driver is cycling along Black Pad Lane to work at the ambulance station that he saw the girl’s body lying in a small wood. A full scale murder inquiry ensued. We had house to house inquiries in the villages of Narborough, Enderby and Littlethorpe and a full search.

But there were no actual sightings of the girl from when she left her home until the body was found. We did a full forensic search of the wood where the body was found and a major incident room was set up.

Why were police convinced from the start the killer must be a local to these three close-knit villages of Narborough, Enderby and Littlethorpe near the M1?

It was the remoteness of the footpath where Lynda was subsequently found and there were no other incidents in the area. So it looked very much like it was local. As though somebody must have known Lynda and intercepted her before she was killed.

The rape and murder of Lynda Mann had a huge impact on those local communities?

There was a great apprehension in the villages, bearing in mind Lynda’s age and the fact that a lot of children of the same age would be out and about in the villages at around the same time that Lynda was. So parents were most concerned. A lot of people went to the same school as Lynda and knew her.

Police officers are professionals but also human beings. What was the reaction of you and your colleagues to Lynda’s murder?

We were all concerned - her age and the brutal way in which she met her death. It caused a great deal of concern, not only amongst the public but, of course, amongst officers that dealt with the inquiry and the family.

Fears the killer would strike again proved correct. Can you tell us about Dawn Ashworth?

In 1986 there was another girl missing in similar circumstances. This was Dawn Ashworth. She had gone to visit a friend in Narborough. The friend was out and so Dawn was walking home. We believed she was walking in a wooded footpath area to and from her home and where her friend lived.

A search of the area failed to reveal the body initially and a full scale search was then conducted. Because it was adjacent to the motorway, we were also looking on the motorway embankments and we conducted a search of the fields. A dog handler on the Saturday morning after she was reported missing found her leather jacket first and then her body hidden in a hay field, covered with grass and nettles. An attempt had been made to fully conceal the body.

Police assumed from the start the same killer was responsible?

Yes. There were a lot of indications in view of the location where the body was, the circumstances in which she went missing and although the time of year was different and the time of day was different, there were that many facets of it, including the way she had met her death, that we felt the two were connected. And we proceeded on that premise.

A local 17-year-old was subsequently arrested?

This person came to our notice. His motorbike was seen in the vicinity, unattended. He couldn’t account for it. He had spoken of where the body was likely to be found, to associates of his, so he was arrested and interviewed. During the interview he made certain admissions in respect of the death of Dawn Ashworth which resulted in us charging him with her murder. He was remanded in custody.

We were firmly convinced the two murders were connected but he denied all knowledge of the murder of Lynda Mann and there was nothing to connect him with it, except, loosely, a blood sample which we took from him, which actually connected to both girls. But, again, that was only a percentage of the population.

We needed to progress this further. There was no other forensic evidence available to us and it was at that point that I’d heard of Dr Alec Jeffreys’ work at Leicester University in respect of DNA. And the fact he’d used it on paternity cases and he was able from the DNA test to identify an individual, as opposed to a person who was a percentage of a blood group. So we contacted the university and asked if he would be able to do a DNA test for us in respect of this person and the Lynda Mann samples.

It’s changed policing tremendously because there is now more care taken at scenes of crime, more samples are recovered which can be subject to DNA testing and the forensic side of crime investigation has increased tremendously.

 

David Baker 

The result was unexpected, in at least one respect?

The result that came back was unexpected because it eliminated him from any connection with Lynda Mann. So in consequence of that, both in fairness to him and to ourselves, we organised a further test on the samples from Dawn Ashworth. And that then came back completely negative and established firmly that he was not responsible for the death of either girl. But there was an individual whose DNA matched and was responsible for the murder of both girls. So we had to start from scratch.

In one sense it was a blow to the inquiry but it also confirmed your belief that the same man was responsible for both murders?

It did, yes. It also clearly established this person’s innocence and, of course, he was released from prison straight away.

What were your thoughts in deciding mass DNA screening was the way forward - quite a leap at that time with this new technology?

We’d been through two murders. We’d knocked on pretty much every door in the three villages, asking questions of where people were at the material times. And we had got absolutely nowhere with it. We’d also carried out inquiries on people that worked in the area, that used the area for schools and pleasure and what have you. So we had to get another ingredient into the mix to establish the veracity of what people were telling us.

Mass screening was not new. I was aware that we had done actual fingerprint testing of a community under the old ink method many years ago. So we now had the DNA technology and there was a strong possibility we could match the DNA with an individual. There was a chance for blood screening to succeed.

Was there resistance to the idea and any scepticism?

Yes. There was some scepticism as to how we would succeed with it. Another element was the actual cost. But with the co-operation of the Forensic Science Laboratory we were able to eliminate some of the costs by just normal blood count screening before we went on to DNA testing. We’d got to do it.

How did men in the local community respond to your appeal to be DNA tested?

We had 100 per cent co-operation from the local community. We mounted a pretty comprehensive publicity campaign using all aspects of the media and we set up the sampling centres. I think of all the samples we asked for, only two people refused. And they were eliminated on other grounds.

You realised from the outset the killer would try to avoid what was the world’s first DNA manhunt and attempt to beat the system?

That’s right. We were aware of what the possibilities were and the fact somebody might endeavour to bypass the system and get someone else to take the test for him. So we built in one or two checks with the blood sampling. And, of course, that’s exactly what happened.

While this DNA testing was taking place, there was a real fear the killer might claim a third victim?

Undoubtedly. We had taken advice and there was every possibility the murderer could strike a third time. That’s what encouraged the local population to co-operate and give us the samples we required.

It was a massive and lengthy process. Did you ever have any doubts during those months that it might not succeed?

Yes. You’d be remiss if you didn’t have that apprehension. But we trusted in the system and it came up trumps.

Detectives tend to believe they make their own luck?

I think so, yes. You do. You take risks at certain stages of your career and this was one of them.

What was the reaction of you and your colleagues when the killer was finally arrested and confessed?

There was a great deal of satisfaction of a job well done. But it was quite an anti-climax, really, Three, four years’ work was over in a matter of minutes.

The local - and wider - community must have felt a huge sense of relief?

I’m sure the local community were very relieved that we had given them an answer.”

Do you think the killer would have been caught without DNA testing?

It’s a difficult question. On the basis of the evidence we had available to us at that time, there is a doubt. But, of course, if he had continued in his course of conduct you never know what might have come up.

Looking back now, how do you feel about those historic events for policing?

It’s very rewarding that you were part of bringing this technique to use in forensic science. Because every time it’s used now, you do get a buzz. Especially with some of the more remote cases where somebody has come to light 20 years after he has committed a crime and he is brought to justice.”

How has it changed policing?

It’s changed policing tremendously because there is now more care taken at scenes of crime, more samples are recovered which can be subject to DNA testing and the forensic side of crime investigation has increased tremendously.

Did you realise the global significance DNA fingerprinting would have for police when you were involved in these two investigations back in the 1980s?

Yes. Once we’d used it and the implications became clear, we were keen then to publicise it to the police forces in the UK and also the international community.

How do you feel about these events now being reflected in a TV drama?

It’s interesting, to say the least. I’ve done quite a few bits for documentaries to spread the word of it. But it’s interesting to see this drama is going to a global audience.

And your thoughts about being portrayed on screen by David Threlfall?

I’ve met David and I’m quite sure he will do a first class job.

Source: ITV Press Centre

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