How Hereford cops caught one of Britain's most notorious serial killers

Ledbury Reporter: How Hereford cops caught one of Britain's most notorious serial killers How Hereford cops caught one of Britain's most notorious serial killers

ONE of Britain's most notorious serial killers was busted by two Hereford beat cops as an easy arrest.

Joanna Dennehy was to keep up  an outwardly composed, controlled - even matter of fact - demeanour for much of the time from that arrest.

It was Dennehy that the officers saw sitting in the front passenger seat of a parked up green Vauxhall Astra as they turned into Newman Close, Newton Farm.

She stayed in the car while her boyfriend Gary Stretch was at an address nearby trying to sell stolen goods - despite having just seen her repeatedly stab two men in the street at random.

Moments earlier, the two officers had heard the Astra's details put out over the city's police radio frequency in connection with those stabbings and at least one murder in another part of the country.

Dennehy's distinctive star-shaped facial tattoo marked her out as the suspect yet she offered nothing as the two officers approached the Astra - a shout of warning to others nearby being the only show of resistance as she was restrained.

Earlier that afternoon of Tuesday, April 2 last year, an ntelligence circular from colleagues in Cambridgeshire raised eyebrows amongst older hands in the CID office at Hereford central police station.

The circular said Gary Stretch - or Gary Richards as those older hands knew him - was linked to a murder investigation underway in Peterborough.

To police in Herefordshire, Richards, from Kington, had been routine arrest for routine offending until moving away to assume his long-held nickname as a surname.

The circular suggested Stretch  may be making for “home”  with one Joanna Dennehy, prime suspect in the Peterborough murder where the victim was her landlord.

Dennehy had a distinctive star tattoo on her face and the pair were believed to be using a  green R-Registered Vauxhall Astra.

At 3.42pm that afternoon, West Mercia Police took a call from West Midlands ambulance control saying a Hereford crew had been sent to a man stabbed repeatedly in Westfaling Street, Hereford.

Despite his serious wounds, the man had made the short distance back home. 

His attacker was a woman with star tattoo on her face.

Minutes later, as a crime scene was being set up in Westfaling Street, a 999 call reported a man stabbed several times on footpath off Golden Post, Hunderton.

To officers fanning out across both sides of the city, the woman with the star tattoo was Dennehy. Given the circular, Stretch  could be assumed as with her.

As Dennehy was being arrested in Newman Close little more than 20 minutes after the second stabbing,  other officers nearby had  identified and detained a “known associate” of Stretch from his Kington days who said he was back.

Other "known associates" of Stretch were spotted in a Renault car leaving The Oval .

Those "associates" were also from Kington and, to the officers at The Oval, there was a good chance the Renault was headed there with Stretch on board.

The Renault was stopped near Almeley where two men were arrested. Stretch was already out and running.

But he didn’t run far, giving himself up to a firearms team being briefed to hunt him down through fields.

He told them he was "Britain's most wanted."

Just two hours had passed  between that first call from Westfaling Street and the arrest of Stretch.

The following days would recognise how vital the work of Hereford officers over those two hours had been.

As murder suspects, Dennehy and Stretch had travelled across England to reach Hereford on the day of the stabbings.

They were seen on CCTV hand-in-hand at a service station in Market Harborough that morning.

Cameras caught up with them again at StrenshamServices before they headed into Herefordshire through Ledbury - pausing to take pictures of themselves near Bartestree.

At the wheel, Stretch steered them "home" to Kington where they broke into a holiday home to steal electrical items for a quick sale.

By midday they were back on the road joined by those old associates of Stretch to make that sale in Hereford.

Court evidence outlined Dennehy's increase desire to stab men during that journey.

She went for her first victim Robin Bereza in Westfaling Street  soon after stopping off at Green Lane stores to buy tobacco.

That stop, too. was caught on CCTV.

The Astra then travelled over the Wye across the Old Bridge and into South Hereford where Stretch parked up in Newman Close, just by The Oval, to see a buyer for what had been taken in the burglary.

With that deal done, he and Dennehy were going to stay on the run.

At Hereford central police station Dennehy - drunk and high - was soon assessed as a psychiatric risk.

She was taken to a mental health unit from where she was released a week later into the custody of Cambridgeshire Police as a serial killing suspect.

Detective Sergeant Mark Jinks, of Herefordshire CID, travelled to Cambridgeshire to question Dennehy  about the Hereford stabbings.

He says a "calm and co-operative" Dennehy gave him nothing in terms of answers while taking everything in  to save for surprise guilty pleas at the Old Bailey in November to three murders and two attempted murders.

Those pleas that now put Joanna Dennehy amongst Britain's most notorious serial killers.

Comments (2)

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11:49am Thu 20 Feb 14

probono says...

Well done Hereford City Police. How did someone from Cambridgeshire get housed in social housing in Kington when we have waiting lists in Herefordshire ?
Well done Hereford City Police. How did someone from Cambridgeshire get housed in social housing in Kington when we have waiting lists in Herefordshire ? probono
  • Score: 1

11:52am Fri 21 Feb 14

Audi Driver says...

Very impressed by Hereford Police, not so by Hereford Times' grammar though.
Very impressed by Hereford Police, not so by Hereford Times' grammar though. Audi Driver
  • Score: 0

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