The Operation Blue CORAL Fiasco (3)
by TIM HICKS & CHRIS CLARK
For some time now, both authors have been investigating the murder of Mrs Trevaline Evans in Llangollen, North Wales in June 1990. They have concluded that Trevaline could have been abducted and murdered by serial killer Christopher Halliwell, who they also believe is also responsible for the murder of Claudia Lawrence, abducted from York in 2009.
Halliwell is currently in prison on a full-life sentence for the 2003 murder of Becky Godden-Edwards and the 2011 murder of Sian O’Callaghan.
Following on from their article Halliwell: The North West Clusters in which the authors analysed a series of murders in the North West of England and linked Trevaline’s murder to them, this is the third part of an article in which the authors analyse the various investigations that have taken place into Trevaline’s murder and the reasons why they failed.
The first part can be accessed here: http://nyenquirer.uk/blue-coral-fiasco-1/
The second part can be accessed here: http://nyenquirer.uk/blue-coral-fiasco-2/
(Ideally, both instalments should be read before proceeding).
The NYE has taken up this case because Trevaline’s siblings and her son are all now dead. So there is no one to uphold her right to justice with North Wales Police (NWP) The Trevaline Evans case leads into the authors’ analysis of the similar failings in the North Yorkshire Police (NYP) Claudia Lawrence investigation, which will be covered in the next article.
Operation Blue CORAL: Response to fresh information originated by Merseyside Police in 2021
Halliwell has been linked to crimes in the Merseyside Police area, see map here.
In 2021, there was media comment originating from Merseyside Police that Halliwell had been working in North Wales. Tim wrote to NWP raising the possibility that Halliwell could be responsible for crimes in the NWP force area. It became clear that NWP was unaware of this possibility, showing that Merseyside Police Force Intelligence Bureau (FIB) had not notified NWP that a dangerous serial killer was operating in their force areas. It also appears that no senior Officer, detective or the NWP FIB had picked this up from following the media.
In the standard intelligence cycle of:
. . . there was a failure to disseminate intelligence by the Merseyside Police FIB (MIF33) and a failure to collect intelligence from open sources by NWP Officers at all ranks and by the NWP FIB (MIF34).
Following my enquiry, NWP liaised with Merseyside Police and then issued this statement:
“Detective Superintendent Steven Williams confirms that there are no known links to any criminality in the north Wales area.”
Although, in fact, it now transpires there were strong grounds to suspect Halliwell’s involvement in the murder of Trevaline Evans. Specifically, that her murder fitted with Halliwell’s known modus operandi and a man fitting his description had been seen outside her shop (MIF35). It appears that Detective Superintendent Williams did not review HOLMES before coming to the above determination (MIF36).
The FMIT again failed to re-interview the witnesses who saw a man resembling Halliwell outside the shop, leading the authors to conclude that the review to consider Halliwell as a suspect performed by the FMIT was superficial, or indeed no review was conducted (MIF37).
Operation Major: 2016 – 2023
One of the major reforms introduced in the Police Service following the Yorkshire Ripper enquiry was that a Chief Police Officer will be appointed to oversee any investigation involving more than one force. This is to prevent individual forces following its own lines of enquiry in isolation, to ensure that the investigation is properly co-ordinated and that intelligence is shared.
This 2022 Mirror article quoted a Wiltshire Police spokesperson as saying:
“Since Christopher Halliwell was arrested for the murders of Sian O’Callaghan and Becky Godden-Edwards in 2011, Wiltshire Police has continues, where relevant to work with other forces across the country to ensure information is shared with them which may be pertinent to their investigations.
More widely since 2016, the Force has run a distinct operation –Operation Major, which has looked to nationally coordinate across forces information concerning Christopher Halliwell. “Wiltshire Police has now commissioned an external review of Operation Major, to ensure all reasonable lines of enquiry have been pursued to date.”
The quote from Wiltshire Police confirms that no Chief Police Officer was appointed to supervise the national investigation into Halliwell from his arrest in 2011 until 2016. So there was no national coordination of the antecedent investigation into Halliwell, or oversight of the investigations by individual forces like NWP (MIF47) during this period.
It was clear from Tim’s correspondence with Chief Constable Blakeman that NWP was not pursuing lines of enquiry relating to Christopher Halliwell and his possible involvement in the murder of Trevaline Evans.
So in February 2023, Tim wrote to Chief Constable Pritchard of Wiltshire Police, which leads Operation Major, asking him to intervene by ordering Chief Constable Blakeman and Chief Constable Winward of North Yorkshire Police (NYP) to pursue lines of enquiry into Halliwell into the murders of Trevaline Evans and Claudia Lawrence. This is the same Detective Chief Superintendent Pritchard who was so severely criticised by the Independent Office of Police Conduct (IOPC) over Operation Kala and failures to properly investigate Halliwell for the murder of Becky Godden-Edwards (Operation Manilla).
Chief Constable Pritchard ignored Tim’s email, thus indicating that Operation Major was not, in fact, taking any active co-ordination role in investigating Halliwell and had failed (MIF48).
It appears that the Police Service is ignoring this requirement to appoint a Chief Police Officer to lead national investigations and has learned nothing from the Yorkshire Ripper investigation (MIF49). The authors are unable to identify how many other multi-force investigations have proceeded without the essential requirement for co-ordination and supervision by a Chief Police Officer, allowing individual forces like NWP to do what they want.
Operation Blue CORAL: 2023 response to the “In the Footsteps of Killers” programme (1)
In February 2023, Channel 4 broadcasted an investigation by Alaska TV on Trevaline’s murder, which featured the UK’s leading criminologist Professor David Wilson and Tim.
The programme can be seen here. Please take the time to watch it before reading further.
The programme traced the witness who saw a man that looked like Halliwell behaving suspiciously outside Trevaline’s shop. The witness was interviewed by actress Amelia Fox. When shown a copy of Halliwell’s photograph, the witness confirmed it was a definite likeness. Had detectives from FMIT done this in 2011, it would have resulted in Halliwell being designated as a suspect and possibly charged and convicted.
To try and capitalise on the publicity generated by the programme and move the investigation on, Tim Wrote to NWPs Chief Constable Amanda Blakeman suggesting that FMIT examined:
- The items of women’s clothing recovered from Halliwell’s trophy cache at Ramsbury, Wilts, to see if any of it belonged to Trevaline.
- A series of sketches by Halliwell, on the basis that he buried bodies and was obsessed with the Moors Murderers. Horseshoe Pass is very similar to Snake Pass where they buried their victims and photographed the graves. Tim suggested that like Brady, Halliwell kept trophies of deposition sites, but drew them rather than photographed them and one of them may reveal the deposition site for Trevaline’s body.
- A 200m radius from the point where the camper van was seen parked at Horseshoe Pass and conduct a thermal ground search of this area to try and identify if Trevaline was buried there.
Tim also asked for a media statement covering the content of the programme, if Halliwell has been designated as a suspect and if he was to be interviewed in prison about the murder of Mrs Evans, or confirmation of how FMIT had eliminated Halliwell as a suspect.
Chief Constable Amanda Blakeman
Rejected Halliwell as a suspect before NWP had even interviewed the key witnesses
Chief Constable Blakeman responded on 1st March 2023, as follows:[Author’s observations are in square brackets]
“We can confirm that all of the points listed above have been carefully considered and reviewed by FMIT. All reasonable lines of enquiries were raised and overseen by our Senior Investigating Officer. You will appreciate that we cannot share details of our investigation with you. However please be assured that all enquiries conducted have now concluded and exhausted.
[At this point FMIT had not even interviewed the witness who saw the man near Trevaline’s shop and at Horseshoe pass (MIF38), or his colleague (MIF39). So it is impossible for Chief Constable Blakeman to claim that “all enquiries conducted have now concluded and exhausted” (MIF40)].
We thank you for your views around Mr Halliwell however he is not being treated as a suspect.
[Chief Constable Blakeman provides no justification for this decision, which has been taken prematurely even before the new witness has been interviewed and his evidence assessed]
You have asked whether we as a Force would be making a comment in response to the television programmes and articles. We will not be making a comment to the media.
[One of the best ways of progressing cold cases is through media comment and appeals. Yet instead of allowing media professionals from the NWP Corporate Communications Unit to work with the media and capitalise on the publicity and public interest generated by the programme, Chief Constable Blakeman personally intervened to take personal control of media relations. A field she is not qualified in (MIF41). Chief Constable Blakeman has imposed what is effectively a news blackout on NWP, preventing the investigation from benefitting from the fresh publicity, which in turn could lead to new witnesses generated by the fresh publicity (MIF42)]
You have also requested that this investigation be reviewed by a Senior Officer from another Force. We are satisfied that the investigation, over the years has been reviewed internally by experienced and Senior Detectives, and subject to external oversight.
We are confident that therefore we can confirm that no such review will be taking place and no request for an external Force to do so.”
[Any cold case review must consider and identify failures in pervious investigations. This has to be performed independently, by a fresh team of detectives so they can do this impartially. Some of the detectives that participated in the investigations into trevaline’s murder may still be serving in the FMIT and have an obvious conflict of interest (MIF43). Hence the reason it is essential there is an external review by another force in the normal way, to prevent any contamination of the investigation by confirmation bias.
Because the NWPs FMIT performs both its major investigations and its cold case reviews, it does not have the required degree of independence to impartially assess the quality of its previous investigations. This is a structural failure within NWP (MIF44).
It is clear from the facts narrated in this article that FMIT bungled the investigation into Trevaline’s murder from Day One. The authors have identified fifty three Major Investigative Failures. Chief Constable Blakeman’s confidence that “the investigations has been thorough and to a high standard” is obviously untenable. It must be a concern that she intervened to prevent new lines of enquiry being investigated in case it revealed failings that would be damaging to the reputation of her force. (MIF45).
It must also be a concern that Chief Constable Blakeman appears to have taken this decision unilaterally, without reference to Wiltshire Police’s Operation Major, which is charged with coordinating the antecedent investigation into Halliwell (MIF46)]
Operation Blue CORAL: 2023 reaction by NWP to a complaint by Tim
Concerned that an opportunity to progress the investigation was being missed, Tim wrote to Police & Crime Commissioner for North Wales, Andy Dunbobbin, who is the official charged with holding NWP to account on 5th March 2023. Tim submitted a complaint about the way NWP had failed to follow up on any of the information revealed by the recent media coverage.
On 13th April 2023, Chief Constable Blakeman’s staff officer contacted Tim and asked for the contact details of the witness that was featured in the programme, which of course Tim provided. While on the one hand, the authors are pleased that after thirty-three years, FMIT was going to interview a key witness, it is deeply unsatisfactory that one of them had to submit a misconduct complaint against the Chief Constable, to force NWP to follow up all lines of enquiry on a murder investigation (MIF50).
Such is the interest in this case in Wales that there is clearly a duty on Chief Constable Blakeman to keep people informed of progress on the investigation, instead of imposing a news blackout on her force. To date, the authors have had no further information from Chief Constable Blakeman confirming if the witness was interviewed, what the outcome was or any media comment at all, which is contrary to the College of Policing requirement for open and accountable policing (MIF51).
Chief Constable Blakeman has already confirmed that Halliwell will not be considered as a suspect, even before the new witnesses has been interviewed. It therefores obvious that even if he is interviewed this will not lead to any positive development because NWP is just going through the motions.
Operation Blue CORAL: 2023 response by the Office of the Police & Crime Commissioner in North Wales to a complaint by Tim
Although it is clear that the investigation has been catastrophically bungled from day one, Mr Stephen Hughes, Chief Executive Officer within the Office of the Police & Crime Commissioner in North Wales rejected Tim’s complaint. A failure of oversight (MIF52).
When Tim appealed this decision, Police and Crime Commissioner Dunbobbin simply backed up Mr Hughes and rubber stamped his determination. Another failure of oversight (MIF53).
It is possible Halliwell was in Llangollen; Mrs Evans fits with his victim preferences, her abduction fits perfectly with Halliwell’s modus operandi and a man resembling Halliwell was seen in the area behaving suspiciously.
Both authors are of the opinion that all the various investigations into Trevaline’s murder since 1990 were bungled. In their opinion, there is certainly enough evidence now to declare Halliwell a suspect in the murder and to interview him in prison. However, it appears Halliwell has been arbitrarily excluded as a suspect because:
- FMIT is obsessively focussed on Richard Evans, to the exclusion of all other suspects.
- Chief Constable Blakeman is determined to protect its reputation by not admitting to past failures.
The authors would observe that in policing, sometimes things can go wrong. When this happens, the duty of a Chief Constable is to be open-minded, to assess the case impartially and, if there have been mistakes, to admit to them – then try to rectify them.
Chief Constable Blakeman’s response has been to deny the possibility of any failing at all in her force’s investigation, to impose a news blackout and to prohibit any re-examination of the case. She has been supported in this policy by the Police & Crime Commissioner, who is supposed to hold the Chief Constable and her force to account.
The authors believe that the murder of Trevaline Evans may still be solvable, but only if the investigation is removed from NWP and all the evidence is impartially examined by experienced detectives from another force.
[Maps by FAD]
Coming next: “Claudia: New evidence”
Right of Reply
If you are mentioned in this article and do not agree with the views expressed in it, or if you wish to correct any factual inaccuracy, please let me know using the firstname.lastname@example.org email address and your views and a correction will be published, if appropriate.
Appeal for Information
Christopher Halliwell had a slim athletic build and spoke with a slight Swindon accent. He is pictured in the lead illustration in 2011, two years after the murder of Claudia Lawrence. You can see and hear him in the video here.
Did he offer you a lift in his minicab?
Did you know of Christopher Halliwell’s father, Alan Keith Halliwell, who is believed to have lived in Huddersfield, York, Ampleforth and/or Oswaldkirk and who previously served in the RAF at Swindon and other locations?
Did you see Christopher Halliwell:
- Staying in a bed-and-breakfast or hotel along the A19,or in Darlington, Middlesbrough, Scarborough, York or the North York Moors area?
- Fishing along the River Dee?
- In Llangollen
- Fishing at Scarborough?
- Fishing at Whitby?
- Fishing along the River Tees?
- Fishing at Scaling Dam?
- In York driving a red rover?
- At Ampleforth?
- At Oswaldkirk?
- In Middlesbrough?
- In Huddersfield?
- In Merseyside driving a white D Reg van?
- At Aughton Park?
- In Manchester?
- In Sheffield?
- Did he drive you from Swindon to Sheffield or York University?
Please email email@example.com. All enquiries will be treated in the strictest confidence.