House of Death: Force's budget stretched by size of inquiry

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The Independent Online
THE MP FOR Gloucester, Douglas French, yesterday appealed to the Home Office for more money to cover the costs of what is likely to be Britain's largest mass murder inquiry.

Nigel Burgess, deputy chief constable of Gloucestershire Police, a rural force whose typical crime might be the burglary of a Cotswold cottage, admitted that the Cromwell Street murder inquiry was stretching the force's limited resources and warned it would cause severe strain if it went on much longer.

Gloucestershire is the seventh-smallest police force of the 43 in England and Wales, with only 1,184 officers.

Much of the money to pay for the search for victims - with nine found in 14 days of digging - will have to come from next year's budget of pounds 52m, even though the financial year does not begin until April.

More than 70 officers are working on the inquiry. Their tasks range from digging for remains, guarding sites and handling media inquiries to interviewing suspects and identifying the remains.

Gloucestershire already has demanding duties, providing protection for three royal households: the Prince of Wales at Highgrove, near Tetbury; the Princess Royal at nearby Gatcombe Park; and Prince and Princess Michael at Nether Lypiatt, near Stroud.

Tony Butler, the Chief Constable, and previous chief constables have argued unsuccessfully in the past that the costs of royal protection - always kept secret - should be paid for from national funds.

Costs will start biting in about 10 days' time when officers working on the inquiry start taking leave or days off owed to them.

Replacements will need to be drafted in from other areas, which will weaken policing standards throughout the county.

'This particular incident is obviously extraordinary and in due course it will start to eat into our budget quite considerably,' Dep Chief Constable Burgess said.

'This inquiry has come at a time of year when we are changing over from one financial year to the next.

'Most of the expenditure on it will come from the 1994- 95 annual budget because although we are in March now, by the time the costs of officers' overtime and extra equipment hire and so on have been paid, we'll be into the new financial year.'

An extra burden which will have to be shouldered by the force is the cost of counselling anyone employed by the police authority who has been traumatised by exposure to the grisly finds being exhumed from the terraced house in Cromwell Street.

They include not just the officers who are digging up the remains, but those who have had to deal with relatives of the dead and typists who have been asked to type up detailed reports on the findings.

(Photograph omitted)