On 28 February 2001, the unforgettable images of the Great Heck rail disaster dominated the front pages of the national press. Ten people were killed and 76 injured when a Southbound GNER passenger train hit a Land Rover trailer which was on the line, before colliding head-on with a coal train travelling north.
Once again the force displayed its ability to deal with major incidents and co-ordinate multi-agency working. NYP’s response and subsequent criminal investigation were widely praised as the Land Rover’s driver, Gary Hart, was jailed for five years.
Remains of a young oriental woman
The year ended much as it had begun with the remains of a young Oriental woman found in Askham Richard on 2 November.
With very little on which to base an investigation and the identity of the victim unknown, the chances of finding the killer looked slim. However, as a result of excellent detective work, and some good fortune a man was convicted of her murder and a further killing in London.
Airwave communications system
The long-awaited Airwave communications system arrived in January 2002, initially at Scarborough then rolled out across the force during the following six months.
In October 2002 Della Cannings took charge of the force now boasting more officers than ever before. Police Community Support Officers were introduced in what was to be a busy era for the new Chief Constable.
In 2003 NYP’s Automatic Number Plate Recognition Team was established targeting travelling criminals who use the county’s roads to further their illegal activities. The new technology enabled officers to identify when and where criminals were using our roads and respond accordingly.
Protest over Iraq war
On 19 March 2004 officers arrested 29 protesters at the Menwith Hill RAF base near Harrogate. In all, 150 people attended the demonstration with the intention of stopping workers getting in and out of the site. They also blocked the highway in protest over the war in Iraq. However, access to the site was maintained at all times thanks to the efforts of officers from NYP.
In May 2005 killer Mark Hobson was sentenced to life imprisonment in Wakefield Prison after pleading guilty to two double-murders. Hobson had killed his girlfriend and her sister and later, an elderly couple, before his arrest following a praiseworthy NYP investigation. The trial judge recommended he should never be released adding: “the damage you have done is incalculable.”
The following month Jenny Nicholl went missing and her murder was solved by an NYP investigation team. Although her body has yet to be discovered, David Hodgson was charged with her murder and eventually jailed last year for a minimum of 18 years. The judge praised the efforts of the officers involved.
The year ended on a positive note when Operation Delivery+ was launched in October 2005. Aimed at tackling anti-social and disorderly behaviour, criminal damage and violence, the six month operation was hailed as a major success, showing immediate results.
NYP was a vital part of two major operations in summer 2006. Police Support Units from 29 forces throughout the UK were successfully deployed to prevent a potentially catastrophic disruption to the National Grid. Officers were drafted in from as far away as Hampshire as hundreds of environmental protesters laid siege to Drax and Eggborough power stations. Officers successfully prevented more than 600 protesters from accessing the power stations which provide seven per cent of Britain’s electricity.
Chief Constable Cannings, who was awarded the Queen’s Police Medal, ended her five years in charge on 16 May 2007 when she retired.
She handed over to Grahame Maxwell who took over armed with an impressive 25 years of policing experience behind him.
RAF Puma helicopter
A busy start saw NYP in the national media spotlight on August 8. An RAF Puma helicopter carrying 12 military personnel crashed near Catterick Garrison claiming the lives of the captain and a member of his crew.
In 2007 a Capacity and Capability Review looked into ways in which to make best use of resources, saving the force £9 million in the process.
A joint initiative under North Yorkshire’s 95 Alive Road Safety Partnership, was launched on 18 March 2008. Using methods of enforcement and education, the scheme’s objective was to create a safer road environment for all users.
Operation Anvil reinforced NYP’s commitment to safer roads in North Yorkshire and improving driver behaviour.
May 2008 saw the successful conclusion of a five year joint operation between NYP and Derbyshire Constabulary. The investigation resulted in the conviction of six men and one woman making up a serious organised crime group whose activities including money laundering, obtaining false passports and theft.
The criminals, who hailed from the North Yorkshire and West Mercia areas, were investigated in connection with thefts in excess of £5 million from UK and foreign banks as well as obtaining false passports. Enquiries were focused not only on the actual thefts but the subsequent laundering of the stolen monies through company and offshore accounts. All the offenders appeared before Worcester and Sheffield Crown Courts and pleaded guilty to their involvement.
Joshua David Cook
Also that month Joshua David Cook of Scarborough was sentenced at Leeds Crown Court for the murder and sexual assault of 22-month-old Charlie Johnson. He was given two life sentences with the recommendation that he serve no less than 18 years and placed on the sex offenders register for life. Charlie died on 17 May in Hull Royal Infirmary after suffering serious head injuries at a house in Scarborough.
In October Operation Drystone was launched. With the aim of tackling crime affecting quality of life in communities across the county, the initiative began with a series of dawn raids across the City of York. More than 60 police officers and 18 PCSOs took part in the first phase of what is the largest operation of its kind ever seen in North Yorkshire. In all, 30 properties were searched, 29 suspects arrested and suspected stolen property and cash seized worth more than £150,000 with Chief Constable Grahame Maxwell making the first arrest.
Queens Police Medal (QPM)
In November 2008 Grahame Maxwell was honoured with the Queen’s Police Medal (QPM) at Buckingham Palace in recognition of his distinguished service to policing throughout his career. He was commended for his efforts with Cleveland, South Yorkshire and North Yorkshire Police, as well as his human trafficking lead role with the Association of Chief Police Officers.
December 2008 saw the launch of North Yorkshire Police Policing Pledge on the set of Heartbeat. The Policing Pledge is a 10-point promise on the level of service customers can expect. This is part of our commitment to a national standard of service for our communities.
North Yorkshire Police aimed to build on the success of its 17 Safer Neighbourhood teams throughout 2009 ensuring that North Yorkshire remained one of the safest counties to live in. Whether patrolling city estates or country villages, coastal towns or moorland farms, the aim was the same, to continue to build up safer neighbourhoods by delivering modern policing in a traditional way.
In 2009 North Yorkshire Police was in the national media spotlight once again when York chef Claudia Lawrence was reported missing. Claudia’s disappearance and suspected murder is biggest criminal investigation in the force’s history and remains ongoing to this day.
Body of an oriental man
Around the same time of Claudia’s disappearance, the body of an Oriental man was found in Burn Canal in Selby. A post mortem revealed that he died as a result of severe head injuries and he was later identified as 38-year-old Cai Guan Chen. Following an in depth investigation – named Operation Caddy – Zhang Zhouli was found guilty of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment with minimum term of 16 years in September 2010. Huang Bao Lung was found guilty of murder and sentenced to life with min of 18 years. Wang Shaozhe was found guilty of perverting the course of justice and jailed for 4 years. Chen Xia Hua was also found guilty of perverting the course of justice and was sentenced to two-and-a-half years’ imprisonment.
In March another high-profile murder investigation was launched when Diana Garbutt was found dead in Melsonby Post Office which she ran with her husband Robin. He claimed that she had been killed during a robbery but following a trial in the spring of 2011, he was convicted of her murder.