Essex: ANPR Used To Track Down Killer

16 January 2012, 15:14 | Updated: 16 January 2012, 15:21

A Brightlingsea man was tracked nearly 500 miles across England and into Scotland before being captured eight hours and 51 minutes after murdering a workmate in a small Essex coastal village.

Communications officers in the information room at Essex Police HQ in Chelmsford used automatic number plate technology (ANPR) and national police radio networks to monitor the movements of Darren Jewell who was jailed for life on Friday (Jan uary 13th) for the killing at St Osyth shortly before 5am on May 19 2011.

Roofer Anthony Prickett, 42, had been waiting for a lift to work with Jewell in one of their firm’s Transit vans. Instead, he was blasted twice with a shotgun and left lying in the road. He died in hospital later that day.

Jewell soon abandoned the works van and starting heading north in a Vauxhall Corsa.

As he quickly tried to escape from Essex, communications officers at police HQ were activating the high-tech Special Operations centre, known as SOPS, a room used for controlling major incidents.

As DCI Simon Parkes launched the murder investigation and Det Supt Ewen Wilson was in charge of the manhunt, Communications Supervisor Fletcher set about controlling communications, using the Police National Computer database and maintaining incident logs, assisted by Communication Officers  Hamlyn and Sweeney.

By 7.35am, Jewell was identified as the prime suspect. A breakthrough came when CO Sweeney, acting on her own initiative, checked all vehicles registered at the suspect’s father’s home. These vehicles were then cross referenced on the Essex ANPR system and one of them, the Corsa, was found to have been on the move shortly after the murder occurred.

National ANPR checks showed that the Corsa was steadily heading north along the A1 and passing through various other force areas. But as quickly as the comms team contacted the various forces Jewell was slipping away before roads blocks could be put in place.

The comms team then decided to issue warnings to Northumbria and, Lothian and Borders police forces and finally Fife police, who were considering closing the Forth Bridge.

But finally, using an Airwave radio through direct dialling, CS Fletcher contacted the control room at Lothian and Borders and an armed interception was planned.

Within 35 minutes of receiving the information Lothian and Borders officers tried to halt Jewell on the outskirts of Edinburgh but he failed to stop. An armed pursuit was authorised and Jewell was later detained.

At Chelmsford Crown Court on Friday (January 13th) Jewell was given a life imprisonment sentence for the murder and ordered to serve a minimum term of 30 years. He pleaded guilty to five firearms possession offences for which he was given four years each to run concurrently with his murder sentence and was also given a two-year-sentence to also run concurrently for the illegal possession of ammunition.

CS Fletcher said: "The sense of achievement at capturing the suspect was incredible but tinged and tempered by the sadness at what had happened only eight hours earlier. It was felt by everyone in SOPS that day and was an exhausting and mentally draining time.

"The sentencing on Friday gave all of us who assisted Jewell’s capture a feeling of closure and satisfaction that that the actions taken that day meant that Mr Prickett’s family were able to see justice done."

Assistant Chief Constable Sue Harrison said: "The officers and staff in SOPS on that day are all to be commended for their teamwork, tenacity, initiative and ability to think laterally under intense pressure and in a fast-moving special operations room. Their brilliant work culminated in the arrest of a dangerous suspect.

"It is a fantastic achievement to identify a suspect, establish what vehicle he is using, then organise his arrest 492 miles away and all within just under nine hours.

"The dedication and commitment of all the staff involved is a credit to Essex Police."