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Police defend actions over gunpoint muggings

PUBLISHED: 11:15 01 April 2010 | UPDATED: 16:53 07 September 2010

POLICE have defended delaying the release of CCTV images of the man suspected of carrying out four gunpoint muggings on women across Belsize Park and Hampstead. Residents and politicians grilled the borough's lead detective Neil Wilson at a

Ben McPartland

POLICE have defended delaying the release of CCTV images of the man suspected of carrying out four gunpoint muggings on women across Belsize Park and Hampstead.

Residents and politicians grilled the borough's lead detective Neil Wilson at a public meeting last week, asking why images had not been released as soon as they were available or distributed among residents.

The suspect carried out his first gunpoint mugging on March 14 and struck twice again the following evening in the space of just half an hour at Lisburne Road and then Chalcot Gardens. Three days later, on the evening of March 17 the mugger struck for a fourth time in Tudor Close, Belsize Park, following his victim to her door before pointing a gun to her head and demanding cash.

Images were then released to the media the following day (including the one pictured right). Police chiefs said they did not want to jeopardise the operation they had launched to catch him or a future prosecution case.

At the meeting at Sarum Hall School on Eton Avenue, prospective Conservative councillor for Belsize Park, Jonny Bucknell, said: "If the images had got to the Ham&High by the Thursday, lots of people would have been warned. They would have been looking out for this guy and there would have been a chance that he would have been caught before committing the crime on that Thursday evening."

Bob O'Toole, chairman of the Burnham Residents Association where the first mugging took place, said: "We found out CCTV images had been released to the media without anyone in our block being informed about it. Why haven't we been given them to put up on our notice board? The residents are coming back to us all the time giving us grief about it. We have been let down by the police."

Det Supt Wilson, who authorised a firearms operation to catch the mugger, told the meeting the decision on when to release images was a difficult one.

He said: "We have a difficult balance and judgment call to make in releasing it to the media. If you have an outstanding suspect for a crime and you release a CCTV image it can be alleged that the victim saw the image and then in the ID parade they were not picking out the person who committed the crime but picking out the person in the image.

"I have a very difficult balance between securing a conviction at court and finding a suspect who is likely to reoffend." He added: "Hindsight is a wonderful thing. We did not know there would be another offence on the Thursday and we did not know that we would not catch him. I am committed to catching this offender.

"The likelihood of one of us becoming a victim of robbery is quite small. There has been a series of robberies here which we have to concede have been quite serious. I want to give reassurances that our response has been as good as can be expected."

The mugger is not believed to have reappeared since his last attack but police revealed they were investigating to see whether a mugging on Bridge Approach, Primrose Hill, on February 22 was carried out by the same man.

Anyone with information can call Camden police on 020-8733 6116 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.


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