Police work extra hours unpaid in Nickell case

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The Independent Online
Detectives investigating the murder of Rachel Nickell on Wimbledon Common are working extra hours without pay because of a ban on overtime.

Police resources have been seriously strained by the inquiry, which has pushed the major investigation pool for London's Number Four Area force into a pounds 70,000 deficit. Scotland Yard said pounds 110,000 had been paid in overtime since Ms Nickell, 23, was stabbed to death in front of her two-year-old son on 15 July.

Detective Superintendent John Bassett imposed the overtime ban last week but insisted that it would not hamper the investigation. 'We do not have a bottomless pit of money or officers,' he said.

'From 21 September, officers have not been, and will not be, paid overtime. Inquiries are being conducted during normal duty hours. Officers are voluntarily working longer hours unpaid in an effort to track down Rachel's killer. If, in the light of fresh developments, longer hours are required, then they will be paid for.'

Officers were working excessive hours at the start of the inquiry, raising concerns over their health and welfare. They were still carrying out more inquiries per officer than guidelines recommend but there had been no complaints.

Forty-nine officers, supplemented for a time by five Regional Crime Squad officers, have been employed on the case.

A Police Federation spokesman said forces were often stretched when murders or kidnappings swallowed up contingency resources and overtime allocations. 'We are concerned that if a force had too many major incidents in one year, it could find itself facing serious problems.'