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Tuesday 14 August 2012
Letters: Police flaws in Tia Sharp probe
As a Scotland Yard laboratory liaison sergeant in 1976, I took an intensive six-week forensic science course at Hendon Police College. There, I was taught to treat all crime scenes as sacred altars, with access restricted to a qualified few.
Later, as an operational inspector, I visited all major incidents in my division to secure the scene for forensic examination. One of my biggest problems was to prevent the area being invaded by officers whose presence served no useful purpose.
Now, when I see TV coverage of high-profile crime cases such as that of Tia Sharp in which troops of specialists march into houses, I cannot help but be reminded of those Guinness Book of Records stunts in which attempts are made see how many students can cram into a phone booth.
Our modern police service seems to have an appalling propensity to complicate relatively simple matters at substantial cost to the taxpayer and for little discernible gain. In this particular case, have too many cooks spoiled the broth?
The officer in overall charge should provide a credible explanation for the inordinate delay in finding the body.
The flawed investigation into the murder of schoolgirl Tia Sharp, whose body was not found till after the third search of her grandmother's house, should provide a wake-up call for future investigations.
Former Detective Chief Inspector Martyn Underhill, who investigated the murder of Sarah Payne in 2000, stated: "The rule with a missing child is to clear the ground under your feet", which is to say it is a basic rule that the police should search the dwelling where the missing person was last seen.
In 1992, Fred and Rosemary West had threatened some of their children that they would end up buried "under the patio, like Heather", the children's elder sister. She had been missing for seven years.
On 6 August 1992, police arrived at 25 Cromwell Street, Gloucester, with a search warrant to look for pornography and evidence of child abuse.
It was not until 24 February 1994 that the police arrived with a warrant to search the house and garden, which they did the same day and found several bodies, including that of Heather.
And there is the case of Sir Peregrine Henniker-Heaton, a former RAF security officer who served in Palestine and retired a wing-commander in 1958. He vanished in October 1971, and sightings of him had been reported in Paris and New York. It was assumed he might have been murdered because of his previous security work.
Nearly three years later, in June 1974, his body was discovered by his son in a locked spare room at the top of the family's Ealing home. Since there was no sign of violence, and the precise cause of death could not be determined, it was concluded that he had died of natural causes and therefore an open verdict was recorded.
For the Metropolitan Police to say in the Tia Sharp case that their oversight was due to "human error" is a euphemistic phrase for "police negligence".
Neil C Oliver
Newtownards, Co Down
Congratulations from America on our Olympics
Congratulations to London and the United Kingdom for staging what will doubtless be remembered as the greatest Olympic Games ever. The venues, officials, volunteers, competitors, and spectators were all magnificent.
From a brilliant original Opening Ceremony, through remarkable athletic achievements, to the jubilant Closing Ceremony, we have been treated to an enthralling spectacle.
London 2012 was truly a triumph for Britain and its success stands as a lasting tribute to everyone who worked so tirelessly for the past seven years. On behalf of the United States, I would like to pay thje highest compliments to the leadership, professionalism and dedication of all those involved.
America brought one of the largest teams to the Games, along with a significant number of visitors to watch them, and we are especially grateful for the British Government's efforts to enable them to visit one of the world's greatest cities, get them to events, and keep them safe. Special thanks should go to the Home Office, the Metropolitan Police Service, Her Majesty's Armed Forces, the Mayor of London's Office, Transport for London, and airport staff.
Appreciation and praise is also due to Locog and Lord Coe. London 2012 greatly benefited from his vision, guiding hand and devotion to the universal principles of fair play and good sportsmanship.
We look forward to the Paralympics, knowing that they will be equally outstanding and knowing that London has raised the bar for other cities around the world seeking to host the Olympic Games. London 2012 will be a tough act to follow.
Louis B Susman
US Ambassador to the Court of St James's, London W1
The real challenge of the London Olympics concerns the future of sport in Africa, not the future of sport in Britain. Team GB easily outperformed all of Africa, leaving a huge continent with a massive population of gifted athletes and countries with great Olympic traditions such as Kenya and Ethiopia trailing in the wake of a small island.
African athletes looking at Mo Farah's success will believe that their best chance of fame and fortune is to get to Britain or America. I am proud that Mo Farah won gold for Britain and proud that this country gave him a chance, but I am haunted by the spectre of thousands of children who never got the chance.
The Olympic "family" should put the normal bidding process aside and award the next Olympics to Africa. That would be a brave decision and a Games for the whole world. A gold medal for Somalia? Now that would be a something for the world to be proud of.
I am delighted with our nation's success, with huge respect for the sportsmen and women who have given so much and made so many sacrifices to achieve it. In fact, it would be surprising if countries with the population and resources of the USA, China and Great Britain had not done well.
A fairer method of determining the final medals table would be to calculate the number of medals won per head of population. Thus, the real winners were Grenada, with Jamaica second and Trinidad and Tobago third, and I would like to congratulate those countries.
GB finished 24th, with the USA 50th and China 75th. Last was India. Giving extra weighting to gold and silver medals sees Trinidad and Tobago drop out of the top three, to be replaced by the Bahamas. By the way, my teenage daughter says I have far too much time on my hands.
I have been a voracious spectator of these fine Games. They should be dedicated to the wonderful volunteers who have helped make it all possible. Motivated and selfless. Isn't this one in the eye for the theories of human nature which cast us as homo economicus, motivated by narrow self-interest.
If this was popular music in Britain today, the country has never put such an abysmal level of artistry on show. Never heard so much garbage in my life. There wasn't a musician within earshot. An absolutely appalling conclusion to a magnificent Games.
Toronto. Ontario, Canada
I am delighted with the success of the Games and with Cameron's promise of "half a billion" over four years for elite sports. How about a similar sum to stimulate the training of engineers, computer specialists, physicists, chemists, designers etc, creators of real wealth for GB? These more prosaic investments will produce folk who can really help Team GB turn around.
Since moving here from the US in 1990, people have been telling me that social organisation is bad, that the trains don't run because of the wrong type of leaves; mass displays of public happiness and pride are either unknown or an embarrassment; the military is unloved; the Monarchy is out of touch. and no one has the slightest idea of who they are as a people. What happened?
Having viewed all cycling disciplines at the velodrome and elsewhere my mind goes back to the years after the war. Cycle speedway was all the rage for my generation,
Tracks were made up on any spare piece of ground we could find. Later, it became more sophisticated with leaguess. The bikes were improvised. We never gave the 1948 Olympics a thought.
I suppose I can call myself a veteran of the 1948 Olympics (letters, 11 August). I attended the opening ceremony as a local Boy Scout, releasing some of the many thousands of homing pigeons sending the opening message throughout the UK and beyond. What a day.
Is it really over? Can I come out now?
Gt Haseley, Oxfordshire
We could do with hope and glory
Are there not two parts to this question of a better national anthem than the present dirge, the tune and the words (letters, 13 August)? The tune has to be rousing and, above all, singable. Elgar's "Pomp and Circumstance March No 1", sung so enthusiastically on the Last Night of the Proms, clearly fits that bill very well.
Vote for fair play
If Gordon Whitehead (letters, 11 August) thinks plans for "making constituencies of roughly equal electorates" amount to gerrymandering, how would he rate the status quo where grossly unequal constituencies give an inbuilt advantage of 20 to 30 seats to one party (Labour), and to Scotland and Wales vis à vis England?
David Battye writes (letters, 6 August) that an answer in the crossword required the name of Christ to be used almost as a swearword and asks would you consider doing this to other religions. The day before, an article started, "Jesus! More multicultural crap! More bleedin' foreigners winning our medals!". Some Christians find this offensive.
The expected has happened ("Thousands 'put off by university tuition fees'", 9 August). But other routes into the professions must be highlighted for school-leavers. In many cases, a non-graduate who obtains a high-quality, work-based qualification can be better off than a graduate. For example, a school-leaver can qualify as a chartered accountant debt-free by the age of 22.
Jane Scott Paul
Chief Executive, Association of Accounting Technicians, London EC1
Should we consider designating the Olympic Park as the new National Sports Centre, replacing the ageing Crystal Palace Sports Centre?
Apparently, Roger Bannister, Donald Campbell, Steve Redgrave, Chris Hoy and Mo Farah share the same birthday of 23 March. Over to the astrologists.
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