Hate mail in show world: police force investigates
A POLICE force is heading an enquiry into a series of offensive letters sent to people in England and Wales involved in the world of dogs.
The investigation is being headed by Kent Police’s Det Sgt Colin Whitfield – previously a member of Kent and Essex Serious Crimes Directorate – who says he is exploring potential offences under the Malicious Communications Act 1988, Protection from Harassment Act 1997 and Offences Against the Person Act 1861.
The offending letters are ‘very personal’ in nature and generally include a newspaper cutting from the canine press featuring a photograph of the victim at a show.
It is believed that fingerprints have been obtained from the letters, and a man – again from the world of dogs – is helping officers with their enquiries.
As part of his investigation Det Sgt Whitfield went to Crufts, where he was seen with at least one other person around the show rings. He also approached potential witnesses to ask questions, and with one made arrangements to visit them at their home at a later date.
This week he contacted DW to talk about the enquiry and to ask for help in identifying more victims of hate mail.
He said he began his investigation a year ago when a letter was received by one of the victims, who lives in Kent; as a result, another victim – from Wales – was identified shortly afterwards.
"Since that date a steady flow of information has come in to the investigation and evidence against the perpetrator or perpetrators is increasing,” he said, adding that officers from Kent Police had interviewed victims and witnesses in pursuit of information which might lead to the sender of the letters. And he confirmed that he had also been to Crufts.
"I wanted to see a few different people and knew it would be easier to see them all there rather than travel to different locations,” he said. "I saw them around the show rings and made appointments with some of them.
"No one involved is outside the show world. I’m pursuing a line of enquiry involving a historical case which might be connected – I will know more in a couple of weeks. There is definitely more than one victim – I believe there is three – relating to more than one incident.I think I’m probably looking at just one suspect, but I haven’t ruled out the possibility that they are acting with others, co-conspirators.
"As the investigation progresses the number of letters – all handwritten, some stamped, some franked and most sent from Wales – is snowballing.”
"The psychological impact on the victims of this type of crime is immense. Victims I’ve interviewed have described how the letters dominate their thoughts and torment their every waking moments, how their sleep is disrupted as they ask themselves question after question, such as who sent the letter, why was it sent, when will the next one arrive and many, many more.”
"They describe the ripple effect the letters have, embracing loved ones, relatives and close friends, all of whom get caught up in the anguish and distress that the communication causes, and the strain the letters put on relationships as the victim often goes into withdrawal and cut themselves off from their usual social ties.
"While there are no visible signs of attack in the form of cuts or bruises the psychological scars are massive often leading to depression and physiological conditions such as weight loss.”
Evidence so far suggests that offences started early last year, but Det Sgt Whitfield believes the ‘full extent of offending’ is not yet known.
"I have evidence of it from February 2012, but some of the material contained within the letters dates back long before then,” he said. "It appears the person or persons responsible have been compiling material for use in their letters well before the letters are sent.
"I have to admit I’m at a loss at present to determine the motivation of those responsible; all I can say is that all of my victims so far have connections to the world of dogs. Some letters contain insults, others intimation or innuendo, but all are offensive about and cause much distress for the recipients.”
He said he wanted to offer all the help and support he could to the victims and witnesses, but wanted also to find out if any more people have received such letters.
"Some individuals may well have spoken to their local police force already, but I would still urge them to contact me,” he said. "It’s important in this type of investigation that incidents are dealt with collectively rather than in isolation in order for a true pattern of offending to be established.
"I would like to hear from anyone who has received a communication, particularly through the post. It may be that victims have destroyed offending material in an attempt to put the matter behind them, but I would still like them to make contact with me even if that is the case.”
Anyone with information can contact Det Sgt Whitfield by phoning 101 and asking for Kent Police, or emailing email@example.com. To do so anonymously, contact Crime Stoppers on 0800 555 111.