Team working unsolved rapes to close down

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A POLICE team which has tracked down rapists years after their horrendous crimes will be shut down at the end of the week.

Operation Galaxy was Hampshire Constabulary’s attempt to tackle the most serious unsolved sex crimes committed over the last 30 years using modern forensic technology.

Hailed as a major success by senior officers, the team has brought four men to justice for crimes which had gone unpunished for years.

But now after examining more than 2,000 DNA samples dating back to 1980 the operation will be suspended – partly due to the government’s decision to axe the Forensic Science Service (FSS), which provided forensic services to police forces.

The officer in charge of the operation, Detective Inspector Julian Venner from the Serious Crime Review Team, said another reason for closing down the operation was it had come to a natural conclusion.

He said: ‘The decision has been taken to suspend Operation Galaxy and review it in a year’s time when we have a better idea of what will replace the Forensic Science Service. We have done as much as we can at this moment in time in reviewing the cases.

‘This was a completely forensic-led investigation and you either have forensic profiles or you don’t.

‘We have done everything we can to establish both full and partial profiles, which will now remain in the database waiting for a hit.

‘If that does happen we will have to look at whether to revive Galaxy on a case-by-case basis.’

Det Insp Venner said that some of the DNA samples the team have examined are too small for current technology to use, but that they will remain on file so that they can possibly be used in the future. Thanks to Operation Galaxy, rapists Philip Andrew, from Milton, Ian Gray, from Gosport, and Michael Slevin, from Gosport, have all been jailed. Andrew committed his crime in 1982, Gray in 1997, and Slevin in 1985.

Det Insp Venner added: ‘Our assistant chief constable, who was funding the operation, said when we started that if we secured one conviction he would regard it as a success.

‘When you see the effect these truly horrendous offences have had on the victims, you realise that we have an obligation to do everything we can to bring those responsible to justice.

‘We have also brought closure to some individuals and families who are still deeply traumatised by what they have suffered.’

Detective Chief Inspector Phil McTavish said he was proud of the work carried out by the Operation Galaxy team since it was set up last year.

He said: ‘The team have secured successful convictions from unsolved cases across Hampshire.

‘As a force we are very proud of those working within the Operation Galaxy and forensic teams. Their dedication, professionalism and abilities as criminal investigators make them a credit to the constabulary.’

A spokeswoman for Hampshire Constabulary said until the FFS is replaced the force will work with other agencies to provide forensic services.