Sniffer dogs search for missing mother

Sniffer dogs search for missing mother
6 December 2004
Western Morning News

Special police dogs trained in sniffing out human remains searched the site of a new housing development over the weekend in the hunt for missing Plymouth mother Julie Crocker.

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

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.

Plymouth police officers leading the hunt said the search was conducted 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."

PC John Ellis and PC Martin Grime from South Yorkshire Police are due to begin their search with Frankie and Eddie today.

They have been drafted in to help Devon and Cornwall Constabulary on three previous occasions - in 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 because Barratt Homes has 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.

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

Kelvin Tutill, managing director of Barratt Homes in Exeter, said the company was fully co-operating with the police search.

He said: "We're doing everything we can to assist the police on this matter."

Police last night said the dogs had not yet unearthed any new clues, and it is not known if they will be used in further searches.

Meanwhile, Julie Crocker's sister, Josie Milne, has travelled from her home in New Zealand to await news.

Ms Milne, who lives in Dunedin on South Island, has not seen Julie, her youngest sister, for eight years.

Ms Milne, 45, said she was first told the news of Julie's disappearance in a phone call the day after she was reported missing on October 3.

Ms Milne - who moved to New Zealand in 1984 - said: "I felt hopeless out there. It was really hard because I could not do anything."

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