Notes from the Police Community Meeting

Police murder appeal poster in Ocean Village

Police murder appeal poster in Ocean Village

On the evening of Tuesday 28th August, over 120 members of the local community attended Hampshire Constabulary’s special community meeting to learn more about the recent murder investigation and have an opportunity to ask questions relating to the case. We apologise for the delay in writing up our notes from the meeting, but we wanted to still provide them here as a reference for those that were unable to attend.

Inspector Ryan Bartlett, Community Engagement Officer Andy Lai and the detective superintendent in charge of the investigation, Tony Harris, were on hand to answer questions from the community and reassure residents that this was a very unusual incident, and to publicly declare their own personal commitments to solving the case.

A/Insp Bartlett said he was grateful for the support of the community and their understanding, especially during the period in which the police cordon was in place. He confirmed that three officers would be permanently based at the Atlantic Close location for the foreseeable future while the investigation is ongoing.

Det. Supt. Harris began by reassuring residents that Ocean Village was an extremely low crime area and that murders were very rare in Hampshire. He said that the investigating team had made lots of progress on the case and that more than fifty officers were involved in the investigation. He explained that police were working very closely with the family of the murder victim, Delia Hughes, and that the family wanted to express their gratitude towards the local community who have been helping police with their investigation.

Hampshire Constabulary are currently working on many lines of enquiry. As of the time of the meeting, police were not aware of any missing property from Mrs Hughes’ apartment and they were continuing to search the local area for a murder weapon. Det. Supt. Harris said they had been very busy identifying who was in the area at the time. He said that the hours between 6-10am on Saturday 18th August were of particular interest.

We were told that the man with the crutches that neighbours had seen had been identified, but that a man wearing a hooded top had not been found and that CCTV images would be released in an attempt to identify the man.

Police have been trawling through many hours of recovered CCTV footage, and that had been taking lots of time. Det. Supt. Harris reiterated that murder cases stay open until they are solved.

At this point, the floor was opened up for questions from the community.

Motive

Several people asked questions relating to whether there was a possible motive for the crime. Det. Supt. Harris said that he was not sure what the motive was at this time, that they had a number of hypotheses and that they weren’t ruling out the possibility of a possible burglary which had gone wrong. The investigating team were keeping an open mind at the present time. Police appealed for information relating to any possible personal disputes that the victim might have had with others, but that they were not aware of anything at all like this.

Earlier arrests

There was a question relating to the earlier arrests of Tim Tritta and Crystal O’Dell. Mr Harris said that he could not comment on any arrests at this time.

Details of how entry to the property was made

When quizzed about how the perpetrator entered the property, Mr Harris said that the entrance appeared to have been made through an insecure door, but that he could not provide any more details at the present time. Somebody also asked about how the victim was found; the police could not comment on this either.

The perpetrator(s) and possible links to other cases

Somebody asked if the police might be looking for one or more people in relation to the crime. The police said they could not speculate at this time. When quizzed further about whether the crime might be connected to any other cases, Det. Harris said that investigators didn’t believe that to be the case and that it looked like it was a one-off, isolated incident.

CCTV footage

Another person asked about the CCTV coverage of the area and whether the perpetrator would have definitely been caught on camera. The answer was that CCTV does not cover the full area of the marina and that cameras could have easily been avoided by the perpetrator.

The search for the murder weapon

On the subject of the murder weapon, Det. Supt. Harris said that it had not yet been identified but that it was ‘something substantial’. Investigators had been busy combing the vicinity, conducting fingertip searches of bushes, drains, bins and other areas. Det. Harris also mentioned that underwater searches of the marina and the area under the decking by Pacific Close had been conducted by divers and underwater drones. He appealed to the public to inform police of anything that may have been found in the area. He said that that the investigation was ‘focused and structured’, that it was ‘very early days’ and that results may take longer to obtain but that they were often more reliable (especially with regards to modern forensic methods). He said that they were currently exhausting all the forensic possibilities on-site.

Many concerns about overgrown vegetation and poor lighting

An issue that many of the public voiced concerns about was that landscaping and vegetation around the marina was growing too densely and too high. This, combined with the fact that there was extremely poor lighting around the southern side of the marina, made for a perfect environment (enclosed and dark) for crime to take place. The police said that they agreed with the public’s concerns on these issues and that the dense vegetation had actually made searches of the area incredibly difficult. A/Insp Bartlett and PC Andy Lai said that they would raise these two issues with the estate owner (MDL) and do what they could to improve the situation relating to overgrown landscaping and poor lighting.

One member of the public mentioned that, before the trees had become overgrown, he remembered an earlier crime in the area had actually been captured on ABP port CCTV cameras, which had just happened to be facing the right direction at the right time. The man said that this would certainly not be possible now with the trees on Ocean Way at their current height and density.

Concerns about lack of police patrols in the area

Several members of the community voiced concerns about a lack of visible policing in the area. Many people felt that the area needed an increase of patrols. Some said they had never seen a member of the police ‘on the beat’, patrolling the area. The response from the police was that police do regularly patrol the area, but that they may not always be visible. There is a dedicated ‘Waterfront Team’ that are responsible for policing the local area including PC Alan Deakin, PCSO Emma Briscoe and Community Engagement Officer PC Andy Lai. A/Insp Bartlett said that he would do what he could to address the perceived low visibility of police patrols.

PC Andy Lai said that he “would love to move to Ocean Village myself, it’s that safe!” He said that it was clear from his recent dealings with the community that ‘people really cared about the community’. He made an impassioned commitment to the assembled group that he was there to serve the public, that he wanted to deal with concerns relating to the visibility of police, to make the public feel safer in their community, and said that he wanted to do everything he could to help prevent crime in the area.

PC Lai asked the community to get in touch with any ideas on how to improve the service they provide, and also asked the public to be more vigilant about reporting crime to the police – including the ‘low-level’ crime that several people mentioned witnessing, such as drug-taking, public sex and other public disorder issues and crimes. The Waterfront Team can be reached by email on southampton.central.snt@hampshire.pnn.police.uk or by phone on 0845 045 4545. The public should use the 101 service to report crime, and should always use 999 to report an emergency or crime in progress.

He also encouraged the audience to use OceanVillageSouthampton.com and its social media channels, and also to get involved in other local community groups such as residents associations. He said that police were very keen to engage with local groups and help residents to set up Neighbourhood Watch schemes, should they want to.

A member of the public mentioned at this point that there was a local Neighbourhood Watch scheme in place for Alexandra Quay residents. For further information about this scheme, please contact Sue on 07759 325859. Sue said she was also keen to establish contact with any other schemes in the area.

There were several comments from the public about the efficacy and limitations of the on-site private security company. Police asked the public ‘not to rely on private security’ and said that incidents of crime and anti-social behaviour should always be reported to the police.