Can I just start this blog by thanking every one of you for your support to date. There have been many compelling and professional comments and we are now at over twenty thousand views. (I appreciate that a fair number of these will be the police)!! Keep watching, sharing and following as the story gets darker.
On 29th July 2016 my inspector sent me an email telling me that he had nominated me for a commendation for the work I had done as a Safer Neighbourhood Team Constable.
Within his report he wrote………… ‘Richard’s interventions into the management of a long term anti-social behaviour issues in Ross-on-Wye by a small group of alcohol dependent individuals has seen levels of antisocial behaviour reduce. He worked in partnership with mental health colleagues, local GPs and treatment services to divert several away from this lifestyle. The small group that were left have been prosecuted for a number of theft offences and the resulting restraining notices have reduced theft offences by a third over the past year.
Richard has been key to rebuilding confidence in Ross-on-Wye, specifically amongst elected members after the changes to local policing styles. His personal interventions, attendance at meetings and always being available, made a huge difference to levels of confidence and satisfaction. Indeed the feed back I have received indicates he is held in very high esteem by local officials’. My Inspector went on to talk about some long term investigations I had managed. ‘In both, Richard has conducted himself impartially and with decorum. Also worthy of note is Richard’s work in investigating a number of offences in relation to local hunts and associated protester activity. Again, two are worthy of note. (He then details one of them).
The second is an ongoing investigation into an allegation of cruelty by hunt kennel staff. This has proven to be an investigation with national interest. Richard has conducted a meticulous, transparent and scrupulous investigation into these horrific and stomach turning allegations. For this investigation he has won the trust and admiration of the hunt protestors’.
The suggested wording for the commendation certificate was………… ‘PC 3202 Richard Barradale-Smith is to be commended for his sustained professionalism, dedication to duty and commitment to making the communities of the South Herefordshire safer’.
I was very touched by this. Now, I don’t usually go around ‘bigging’ myself up like this, but it becomes relevant later on, when you will see that I never got the award, as well as giving you an understanding of how I was regarded locally, by people who worked with me.
I continued my work as the safer neighbourhoods officer.
On Friday 5th August I attended a Critical Incident Management Meeting, (CIMM) in respect of Operation Childer. This was the first CIMM meeting in respect of this case. In this meeting, Superintendent Thomas thanked me for the trust and confidence I had obtained so far. She said that she still wished for me to be part of the investigation.
The meeting was told that it had been 11 days since CID had taken over the investigation but no contact had been made from them to the HIT, who weren’t very impressed by this. Superintendent Thomas said that this contact would happen at a senior level.
On 11th August DI Taylor went to Abergavenny Police Station to meet with Andy, the HIT member who had brought me the fox cubs. (This is important a bit later on)!
On 16th August 2016, The Ledbury Reporter published an article saying that five search warrants were executed at properties in Herefordshire and Abergavenny on that day and that five other people would be voluntarily interviewed as part of the South Hereford Hunt investigation.
I was told by people in the community that the remaining masters and the hunt secretary were the people who had the warrants served on them. If this was the case, did the police applying for the warrants disclose to the court my report of 26th July as would have been required for disclosure purposes? I doubt it very much!! Obviously I was not aware of any further evidence, if there was any, which implicated the other Masters but it seemed to me that the investigation was now being over complicated. One of the possible results in over complicating investigations is that they collapse. Perhaps this is what someone wanted!!
Upset the other masters who had been cooperative up until this point, and they would then become uncooperative and important evidence may be lost. (or am I just a cynic)?
I then started to get a real feeling of being deliberately isolated from the case. I have a good sense about when things aren’t right and I was definitely feeling this. The electronic file for the case, which would normally be accessible was ‘locked’ so I could no longer view it. There was virtually no communication from CID.
Plans were being made to police the forthcoming badger cull, (Operation Themis). I was a trained Police Liaison Officer. (The uniformed police officers who wear the blue tabards at protests etc). I was told that my role would be the community reassurance . I questioned this, as it made no sense. I said that I was the only trained officer in the area to do the police liaison work with people apposed to the cull. I then found out that they were sending another local officer to Yorkshire to be trained in the role I was already trained in, at a cost of £6000. This made no sense and made me extremely suspicious about what was happening.
I asked my supervisors and even Superintendent Thomas if there was something going on but they all assured me that everything was ok.
On 21st September 2016 DC Cleeton asked me to complete my statement. He also wanted a copy of my pocket note book. He asked if it could be done prior to 17th October so it could be submitted with the papers to CPS. I completed this on 5th October.
On 6th October I went to Hereford Police Station to see DS Wells. She had emailed me saying, ‘I need you to come to Hereford so that you and I can sit down and go through your actions on this job. I need to record a statement from you and ensure we have full continuity for all the exhibits. There are quite a few issues we need to cover, hence the reason you and I will do it together’. I took my statement and we went through it together. DS Wells asked me how I knew Andy, the HIT member who first reported the crime to me. I explained that she had brought me the dead fox cubs . DS Wells said, “Yes, but how do you know her”. This had turned into a line of questioning which was very strange. I was confused at what DS Wells was trying to get at. I again said that I knew her, because she brought me the dead fox cubs. She then asked me if I had known Andy prior to her coming to the police station on 28th May. I said that I had never met her or known her prior to this incident. it was all very strange. I then amended my statement to clarify the points that DS Wells and I had discussed.
During this ‘meeting’ with DS Wells, she told me that she had hunted both before the ban and after the ban when they then trail hunted!
I had been invited to attend the next CIMM meeting but was then informed I was no longer required to attend.
It was quite clear that something was going on but people weren’t being honest, open or transparent about this. I was being treated for a pre existing, work related mental health issue at this time, and this really wasn’t helping my condition.
However, nothing could have prepared me for what was then about to happen.