THE CHIEF of police for Whitby has denied claims by a double murderer that the town has a drugs problem.
The allegations were made by James Allen during his three-week murder trial at Newcastle Crown Court. He was found guilty of the murder of 50-year-old Church Square resident Julie Davison and Colin Dunford, a Middlesbrough pensioner, but during the trial repeatedly referred to his attempts to score drugs while in Whitby.
Allen claimed that within a few hours of arriving in the town on 24 April he spoke to a number of residents who were quickly able to direct him towards a property where drugs could be purchased.
Insp Colbourne said this address was known to police, who have previously executed warrants there, but no evidence of drug use has ever been found.
“You have to remember, we are listening to a man who has been convicted of a serious offence,” said Insp Colbourne. “So you have to take what he says with a pinch of salt. But I don’t want people to think that Whitby is a big drugs den, because it isn’t.”
Following the murder trial, which concluded last Tuesday, questions have been raised about why Allen chose to return to Whitby after travelling to Scarborough. He was already on the run following the murder of Colin Dunford the previous day and was wanted by police following allegations of rape and serious sexual assault. On this day, Allen confessed that he had hoped to purchase Subutex, a painkiller which he said he hoped to be able to sell for a profit while in prison.
However, Insp Colbourne disputed claims that Allen targeted Whitby specifically for this purpose and said he has actually seen a reduction in drug offences of over 20% compared to last year. The majority of these offences relate to class B drugs and have emerged following ‘stop and searches’ on the street.
“Regardless of what he’s said, Whitby doesn’t have a massive drugs problem,” said Insp Colbourne. “It’s relative to the community we have got, but wherever you go there’s going to be drugs.
“It’s never going to go away completely but every piece of intelligence we get, we are going to use.”
Insp Colbourne added that because of his familiarity with the drug culture, Allen would have had no trouble meeting like-minded individuals. He said: “If I was a drug-user and I went out into Whitby, Scarborough, Pickering, wherever, you naturally identify who the other druggies are. So it wouldn’t be that difficult for him to identify some commonality.”
Whitby Police have identified thefts and criminal damage within the town centre and burglaries from rural outbuildings and properties, which have all been on the increase this year, as their main target for upcoming months.
One high-value theft occurred overnight on 24 November when over £3,000-worth of diesel, tools and other items were stolen from a barn at Brook House Farm in Hawsker.
There are no witnesses and no property has been recovered, and Insp Colbourne said: “Over the next three months my staff are going to be targeting those offences.”
As part of a joint action with Cleveland Police, this will involve extra foot patrols on the streets and random stops of vehicles travelling around rural areas at night.
These additional incidents mean that figures appear to show an increase in the level of offences within the Whitby area over the past year, but Insp Colbourne has sought to reassure residents that this is actually due to Whitby having a very low crime rate. He said: “Year on year we have had reductions. It’s now almost got to the point where you’re struggling to get it any lower.”
Anyone with information relating to the Hawsker burglary is urged to contact Whitby Police by calling 101 and selecting Option 2.