Crack police team set up to probe Doncaster’s historic serious crimes is axed

Nora Tait
Nora Tait

A specialist unit set up to examine unsolved crimes has been disbanded because of a cash shortage.

South Yorkshire Police has confirmed the closure of its ‘cold case review’ team - formed to crack unsolved serious offences including murders and rapes in Doncaster.

The news means that two of Doncaster’s most high profile killings will now be assigned to an investigating officer rather than having a specialist team working on them.

The oldest of the Doncaster cases is that of Barbara Ann Young, who was aged 28 when she was murdered in Nether Hall Road in March 1977. She was killed by ‘blunt force trauma’.

The second is that of Nora Tait, 69, who was murdered at her home in Stone Close, Avenue, Hexthorpe, in October 2005 when she bludgeoned over the head with a weapon as she was about to sit down to a fish and chip lunch.

Police said cold cases remain ‘constantly under review’ – but admitted that more current live investigations are now the priority.

Chf Supt Rachel Barber said: “We never lose sight of our unsolved cases and, while it is a blow to lose our dedicated cold case investigations team, working within budgetary constraints meant keeping the unit going was no longer financially feasible.

“The most appropriate way to manage this situation is to assign each case to an officer responsible for monitoring and chasing up any inquiries, should new information come to light.”

The cold case team was launched in 2007 and used to order fresh forensic screens of exhibits taken from crime scenes and reviewed files to double check that every possible line of inquiry had been followed up.

Detectives secured 11 convictions and prison sentences totalling 107 years in the department’s first three years - including solving one murder, nine rapes, one indecent assault and one burglary.

South Yorkshire Police confirmed it has 28 unsolved murders across the county on its books dating back to 1962.

An inquest into Mrs Tait’s death in 2013 was told by Det Chief Supt how police had followed up 3,326 lines of inquiry involving 2,600 people since her death.

He said at the time: “South Yorkshire Police will never give up on this investigation.”