For nine years Colin Sutton was the Senior Investigating Officer (SIO) for the Metropolitan Police. During his stint, which ended in 2011, Sutton led more than 30 successful murder investigations including two of the most infamous cases in British history. Sutton tenaciously and relentlessly pursued serial killer Levi Bellfield as well as serial rapist Delroy Grant known as the ‘Night Stalker’, bringing both men to justice.
Now happily retired in Suffolk, Sutton’s memories about the two cases have been turned into the TV series Manhunt starring Martin Clunes. Let's take a look at Sutton’s most famous investigations.
On 19 August 2004, French student Amélie Delagrange, who was in the UK visiting, walked home after a night out with friends. Her route took her through Twickenham Green in London. Before she could make it through the small grassy triangle she was battered over the head with a hammer, succumbing later in hospital from her injuries.
Sutton, who’d been assigned to the Delagrange case, began suspecting this might not have been the attacker’s first murder. Eighteen months earlier another young girl, Marsha McDonnel, had been hit over the head near her home in Hampton, London. She too died from her injuries.
With very little scientific evidence to work with, Sutton began a painstakingly thorough investigation to catch the killer. CCTV and mobile phone records led Sutton to Levi Bellfield and after three years of gathering evidence from ‘old-fashioned detective work’, he’d built a solid case against the man from West Drayton.
In the Delagrange case, Sutton hypothesised that Bellfield had attempted to chat with the young girl who might have spurred his advances, angering Bellfield. ‘When we started dealing with him he came across as very jokey, like he's your best mate,’ Sutton would later say. ‘But he's a cunning individual, violent. He can switch from being nice to being nasty, instantly.’
In 2008, Bellfield was convicted of two murders and one attempted murder before being later convicted of the 2002 killing of 13-year-old Millie Dowler. Bellfield is now serving three life sentences at Wakefield prison.
Between 1992 and 2009, the ‘Night Stalker’ burgled homes in South East London. The intruder also sexually assaulted elderly women whilst they slept in their beds. By the time Sutton was asked to take over the case, the Night Stalker had been active for over a decade.
Implementing his hard-working, case-building methodology that had helped him catch Levi Bellfield, Sutton began closing in on the Night Stalker. ‘The focus was switched from trying to identify the offender by DNA – mass-swabbing of a huge number of potential suspects – to a proactive operation, using 75 officers and technical surveillance in an area identified by analysis of his 'favourite' target area. He then, after 17 days, committed a burglary in the area, was observed and arrested.’
The Night Stalker was unveiled as Jamaican Delroy Grant and Sutton tied him to around 203 offences, although the detective believed that number was just the tip of the iceberg. In 2011, Grant was sentenced to a minimum of 27 years in jail