Over the last few months I’ve spent a lot of time traveling for work and have started to listen to audio books. Not the usual fiction I love reading, but real life accounts and memoirs.
A few months ago, a TV series caught my eye, Manhunt staring Martin Clunes. The true story based on the book MANHUNT, the memoir of Retired Detective Chief Inspector, and Senior Investigating Officer, Colin Sutton.
Having watched, and enjoyed the series, I went onto Amazon to look for the book, but it also gave me the opportunity to use a credit to buy the audio book. It was one of the best decisions I’ve made so far this year to download the audio to my iPhone.
The file is just over 9 hours long and is narrated by the brilliant Peter Noble, the perfect person to give Sutton a voice.
The account starts with an early memory from Sutton about why he became a Police Officer. Heading for life in Criminal Law he was sat doing work experience with Defence Counsel. Although every criminal has a right to a defence, Sutton quickly realised this is something he could not do. In fact, he decided he wanted to get justice for all of the victims of crime and decided against a, probably more lucrative, carrier in Law and decided to join the Police.
The story then jumps to the point where he returns to the Met as DCI of one of the Major Crime Teams having spent some time in Shire forces.
One of the first cases he picks up is a murder. A woman is found battered to death in Twickenham. She is quickly identified as the French woman Amelie Delagrande.
That is the starting point to one of the biggest criminal investigations the Met has carried out.
DCI Colin Sutton, acting as SIO, directs his team in an investigation which leads him to link the murder to that of Marsh McDonnell.
Once that link was made Sutton began to think that there may be other murders that were also linked and recorded an action for his team to look into any unsolved serious assaults and murders that fitted the pattern.
Suttons tenacity to detail found him some critics in the force, and maybe in his own team, in that he will leave no stone unturned and run down every possible piece of evidence. It was this tenacity that led to the breakthrough in the case though. The insistence that every piece of CCTV be found and watched, the insistence that every vehicle in the are caught on CCTV be identified.
More crimes started to come to light which may have been connected to the murder of Amelie, and one of the crimes in particular allows the story of one of the bravest victims of crime I have ever heard of being recounted.
Kate Sheedy was knocked over by a vehicle which then stopped and reversed over her. Her injuries were horrific, but it didn’t stop her phoning for help, give good factual evidence to the Police, and ultimately give evidence in court about the man who was eventually charged with the murders of Amelie and Marsha, and the attack on herself.
The man was Levi Bellfield, a man who is more notoriously remembered for killing Milly Dowler.
Colin Sutton recounts the story of his team’s investigation into the murder of Amelie and how it spread to incorporate many other serious crimes. It shows the working life of a detective working a serious crime, the sacrifices that have to be given, the emotions it evokes and the damage that can do to people and relationships professional and personal.
It lays bare Suttons though processes, which at times, although logical, must have been frustrating to some that worked with him.
It shows the all consuming effect investigating a serious crime can have on people, and in this case the serious crimes just kept mounting up the more they looked.
Once they had identified Bellfield, they were certain they had their man but did not have enough evidence to arrest him. One section of the book looks at how they put him under surveillance but the questions was for how long, and what happened if he committed a crime whilst they were watching him. Intervein in its early stages and show their hand before they had enough to charge him on all of the other crimes? What a decision to have to make.
This is not a spoiler because we all know what happened to Bellfield so I can talk about it. The worries and concerns about getting information and further evidence following his arrest. Interviewing him in a way that they can out wordsmith him and trap him in his own words.
The worry of the SIO, and his team, about taking evidence to the Crown Prosecution Service to see if they could proceed with one, some, or all of the crimes they want to charge Bellfield with.
Ultimately the trials and tribulations, the emotional rollercoaster of the trial. Years of work put in front of a Judge, and Twelve people from the “Clapham Omnibus”, and waiting to see if you have done enough to get the conviction that you know you deserve because, without doubt, this man is guilty.
What did surprise me was how Collin Sutton Felt after the trial. Not immediately because he felt the pride and joy that anybody in his position would have felt, but in the months afterwards with a few years left till retirement.
This is not just the story of Collin Sutton. It is a true reflection of his character that he includes many people in his memoir, some for outstanding praise, some for criticism.
He has no hesitation in showing admiration for his team, his peers, even if sometimes some drove him to distraction. He heaps praise on some witnesses, on the remarkable mother and father of Amelie, and shows his admiration of Kate Sheedy and her bravery in giving evidence.
He relates his frustrations at some previous investigations, that if carried out properly may have led to Bellfield being identified and arrested much earlier. He does not hold back at showing us his thoughts and frustrations with some Senior Officers within the Met and other forces. The fact that Bellfield was eventually convicted of the murder of Milly Dowling was more down to Sutton and his team than the actual SIO investigating her murder.
What he does is tell the truth, no filters, just the truth.
For those of us living in the naive belief that this country doesn’t have a problem with serial killers, “that’s an American thing” is something I often hear opined. This book will introduce you to one that terrorised London and the home counties for years. It was just that, until Colin Sutton came along, no one realised there was a serial killer on the loose.
The crimes that he committed, and that are laid out in this book, are unfathomable to most.
Unfortunately they won’t come as a surprise to those working in the Police and some of their partner agencies.
This book hooked me for many reasons. Not least in how any things I empathised with. Like Colin Sutton I won’t work for a defence team, I have been asked many times but always politely turned them down.
As an expert witness I have sat in Court with Prosecution teams and seen the torment they go through during a trial.
I have stood on the stand giving evidence and felt the eyes of the defendant boring into me during murder trails.
I have never seen those feelings so well recounted as they are in this book.
This is the story of a criminal investigation into one of England’s most notorious killers. But it is so much more than that.
It’s the story of the man who shouldered the burden of responsibility in a professional and personal manner.
It’s the story of the victims and their suffering
It’s the story of a Monster Amongst Us.
It is a fantastic listen as an audio book, and soon the book will sit amongst my reference books in my office.