The police put enormous resources into solving murders, but sometimes that isn't enough. Here are four murder investigations from the past two years that need to be concluded this year.
If you come home to find your house has been burgled, when you report it, you may simply be given a crime number. The police don't have the resources to investigate every burglary or every alleged crime. The same is not true for murder. Unless a suspect is arrested at the scene, they will set up an incident room dedicated to solving that particular crime. Depending on the circumstances they may draft in extra detectives and/or extra uniformed officers to make house to house inquiries and the like. They may make an intensive search of the area, with officers in forensic suits literally getting down on their hands and knees looking for clues. They will trawl their databases, and much more besides. The British police especially bring to book a far higher percentage of murderers than for most if not any other crime. Sometimes though, even that is not enough.
Last year there were a number of high profile murders that remain unsolved and which need to be solved as soon as possible before the trail goes totally cold, or in some cases those responsible kill again.
At the top of this list because of the potential for murdering vulnerable people in large numbers has to be the person or persons responsible for the Stepping Hill Hospital murders.
This is an affair that has been shrouded in mystery from day one, because the police and all those concerned have said little or nothing about them. In July 2011, Staff Nurse Rebecca Leighton was formally charged with three counts of causing criminal damage with intent to endanger life; three counts of being reckless to whether life was being endangered; and one count of theft of medicine from the hospital. The police confirmed five suspicious deaths, and the smart money was on the prime suspect being charged with all of them. Then the case against her collapsed, and after she appeared on TV to protest her innocence, the trail and news about the case went cold.
Very little has been heard from Greater Manchester Police in this connection since, but a year on they released a statement in which they said the investigation had generated more than 3,800 pieces of work, more than 650 statements, led to them speaking to 800 members of staff, collecting almost 3,000 exhibits, creating more than 9,800 documents, and obtaining information relating to more than 2,300 people including patients, hospital staff and visitors.
Although the trail appears to have gone cold, no one should be surprised if six months from now another, and more concrete, arrest is made.
One of the most shocking "British" murders last year happened in France. This was the slaughter of Iraqi national Saad al-Hilli, his wife Ikbal and her mother together with a cyclist. The family lived in Claygate, Surrey, and because of Mr al-Hilli's background, one of the most obvious lines of inquiry was that his murder was politically related or something to do with his work. To this effect, French police travelled to the UK as part of their investigation.
For whatever reason, a number of press updates concerning this investigation have disappeared from or have been removed from the website of Surrey Police, but the latest line of inquiry concerns a serial killer who is currently behind bars in Switzerland - where hopefully he will remain until he dies. If this man is also responsible for the al-Hilli family murders, then rather than being targets for assassination, this family was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Another shocking murder from last year was that of Emma Winnall, the elderly woman who was attacked in her own bed. She died later in hospital, but in spite of appeals by both her family and the police, there have been no visible developments for seven months, but again, the police will not put this one to bed until someone has been brought to book for it.
Finally, have you heard of Stephen Lawrence? Of course you have. This was a fairly run of the mill street murder that is 20 years old this year. Have you heard of Trevor Ellis though? Probably not. Like Stephen Lawrence, Mr Ellis was black, but because there was no mileage in his death for the usual suspects to make political capital from, he has been all but forgotten, although not by the police. Trevor Ellis was shot dead in August 2011 during the riots. If anything, his murder appears to have been even more senseless than that of Stephen Lawrence. He was also a father of four. Again, the trail has gone cold, for now, but the British police never give up in cases like this. Police in Lanarkshire are currently looking into the disappearance of a schoolgirl way back in 1957.
The man believed to be responsible for her murder is long dead, so cannot face judgment in this world, but the killers of the al-Hilli family, Emma Winnall, Trevor Ellis and the Stepping Hill Hospital victims have no such assurances, and any day they could answer that knock on the door.