The dog that could sniff out Julie

4 December 2004
Evening Herald
Jayne Freer

Police dogs trained in sniffing out human remains were today searching the site of a new housing development in the hunt for missing mum Julie Crocker.

The two specialist search dogs and their handlers have been drafted in from South Yorkshire Police to carry out an overall search of the part-constructed site at Carew Gardens in Honicknowle.

Plymouth police officers leading the hunt today insisted the search was to 'rule out' the site as a possible area for concealment as opposed to acting on information received.

Construction work began on the Hedgerows development in late September - around the same time Julie disappeared from her home in nearby Chard Barton.

Barratt Homes is building 29 three-bedroom homes on the site.

Police search co-ordinator, Inspector Steve Bickley, said the police dog search formed 'just one of a number of searches' close to Julie's home.

He said: "We are not reacting to specific information we are searching to make sure she is not there, as opposed to searching because we think she is."

Pcs John Ellis and Martin Grime from South Yorkshire Police were due to begin their search with Frankie and Eddie earlier today.

Frankie, a border collie, and springer spaniel Eddie, are the only two dogs in Britain capable of locating human blood and body fluids in small quantities.

They have been drafted in to help Devon and Cornwall Constabulary on three previous occasions - the search for murdered South Hams teenager Alicia Eborne, missing North Devon teenager Charlotte Pinkney and the Boscastle floods.

Insp Bickley said: "These dogs are specially trained in sniffing out human remains and this is one site where we are possibly going to use these animals. We may use them in further searches in the future."

He added that the use of specialist X-ray equipment had also been discussed.

But police admit the search could prove problematic as Barratt Homes have made significant progress on the site since late September.

Insp Bickley said: "It is going to be difficult. There has been a substantial amount of work in two months."

The officer confirmed that further searches will be carried out at various other locations in the future.

"We are still taking into account that Julie could be missing or worse deceased. We still have an open mind, that is why we are using such a range of search techniques which has already included Dartmoor Rescue Group, the dogs and other methods," he added.

Bosses of Barratt Homes said they were fully co-operating with the police search.

Kelvin Tutill, managing director of Barratt Exeter, said: "We're doing everything we can to assist the police on this matter."

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