Friday, 22 October 2021

Police apologise over delays in investigation

POLICE have said sorry after being accused of failing to investigate a serious crime because they couldn’t be bothered.

The apology was issued by Inspector Mark Harling, head of Henley police, who admitted his officers had failed to properly investigate the break-in at a Caversham golf club in which buggies were stolen and then destroyed in an arson and criminal damage attack on Sonning Common skate park.

Sonning Common parish clerk Philip Collings accused Thames Valley Police of “doing diddly squat” to investigate the incident in the early hours of August 2.

He complained that officers had not contacted any of the victims or visited any of the crime scenes for more than two weeks after it happened, adding: “Their behaviour at present suggests they can’t be bothered.”

Insp Harling has looked into the incident with Sgt Steve Bobbett, head of neighbourhood policing for the area, and admitted the force made mistakes in its response to the crime.

He has also pledged to ensure such failings don’t happen again while Sgt Bobbett is now working to bring the investigation up to date.

Mr Collings said he understood that officers had now visited the sites, including Caversham Heath Golf Club and the skate park in Bishopswood recreation ground, where about £12,000 of damage was caused.

He said: “The police have reacted to the problem and they are now trying to get it right but only time will tell if they find anything.

“It may be too late as they are doing what they should have done straight away. We will be meeting with people from the police to see what happens next.”

The incident happened when a gang of joyriders broke into the golf club near Mapledurham and stole three golf buggies.

The carts were used to smash through a fence and then taken to the recreation ground where they were used to destroy fencing, benches and litter bins before being set alight.

Four football goals belonging to Rotherfield United Football Club were also wrecked.

Another buggy was found damaged and abandoned in woodland nearby and two more were left at the club badly damaged. The total damage is estimated at £37,000.

Robert Wytchard, Mapledurham estate manager, which includes the golf course, had been storing abandoned bicycles at the club for the police to pick up for use as evidence.

He was asked to keep them safe on the day of the incident but planned to throw them in a skip as they had still not been picked up after almost three weeks. Last week, two officers finally came to collect the bicycles.

John Ross, the club’s marketing manager, said: “The bikes have been taken away and then another officer came in this week to retrace the route potentially taken by those responsible.”

Mr Collings also complained to Thames Valley police and crime commissioner Anthony Stansfeld.

Mr Stansfeld’s office replied, saying it would look into it and respond within 10 days but Mr Collins had still not had a response by Wednesday, which was four days after that deadline.

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