Head of police’s major crime squad retires

Detective Superintendent John Brocklebank ANL-160904-150908001
Detective Superintendent John Brocklebank ANL-160904-150908001
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The head of Norfolk and Suffolk’s joint police Major Investigation Team, who is hanging up his handcuffs at the end of the month, says he broke his first case when he was just a teenager.

Det Supt John Brocklebank has been in charge of all major investigations in the two counties for the past two years – having started as a beat officer in Bury St Edmunds when he was 26.

John said although he hadn’t necessarily wanted to be a policeman as a child, he always had a strong sense of right and wrong.

“As a kid, my dad had his trailer nicked, I must have been a teenager at the time.

“For whatever reason I ended up going to a motorbike scrambling event soon after.

“After a quick look round, I spotted this guy with my old man’s trailer.

“Now, you’ve seen the size of me! This lad was eventually encouraged to take it back to my dad. That must have been the first crime I solved.”

John said he loved Bury St Edmunds from the moment he got there.

Moving from Ulverston in Cumbria, John settled in Bury shortly after getting married and started working the Howard and Mildenhall estates beat in 1986.

John says his time as a community bobby really helped him appreciate what a wonderful part of the country he had moved to.

“I love this town and I’m going to remain here after I retire. I will always take an active part in this community, even when I finish working,” he said.

After promotion to CID in 1996, John began working more high profile cases, later being promoted to detective inspector in 2008, detective chief inspector in 2010 and detective superintendant in 2012.

But, he says, the case he can never forget is the disappearance of 19-year-old Luke Durbin, from Hollesley, who went missing after a night out in Ipswich on May 12, 2006.

“Luke’s case is one that will stay with me,” he said.

“I am convinced someone out there knows exactly what happened to him.

“The community have done what they can for us, but there are still some key people who could help us.

“What I find astonishing is the dignity people have, even when at their lowest ebb.

“I have had to deal with some tricky jobs over the years and have dealt with a lot of deaths, and have always been impressed with how people cope with tragedy.”

Asked if the job ever got to him, John said each case he deals with makes its mark.
“I would say every death takes a piece of you but also leaves a piece of it behind on you.”

He added: “I have also worked as a crisis negotiator and some of those remain with you, they stick with you. But you learn to manage it.”

John said although policing had changed dramatically since he started the job, good old community policing was still the cornerstone of the job.

“The introduction of the Major Investigation Team and the collaboration with the Norfolk Constabulary, which came about after the comprehensive spending review, was a big change.

“From my personal point of view, the MIT having access to that amount of resources is very useful.

“Some of the other savings have been fairly difficult and we as a result have lost a bit of that direct access to the public.

“But I am a strong believer in community policing and fortunately, that still exists.

“Forensics and the technology is developing so fast we are running to keep up.

“The future of policing is definitely in greater collaboration, but I genuinely hope we keep that community focus even with our greater reliance on science and technology.

“I still hope there are some characters in the police and officers aren’t all the same.

“The police should reflect the public.”

Not one to plan an easy life after retirement, John now aims to get on his bike and cycle round the UK for three months, writing a blog as he makes his way round the country.

Although he has managed some difficult and sad cases in his career, he was optimistic about crime and the public’s response to it.

“Across Suffolk there is a sense of pride that we live in a safe place,” he said. “If you live in a place where the public care, you are half way there.

“The response to some of the cases I have worked on from the public has been incredible.

“I am genuinely optimistic about it and society.

“It really has been an absolute privilege to work for Suffolk and Norfolk and, more importantly, for good old Bury St Edmunds.”