“You should never forget that life is precious” − the words of a retired senior police officer commended for his work investigating more than 80 murders in the West Midlands.
The last 11 years of former Detective Inspector Buck Rogers’ career has been solely dedicated to investigating dozens of killings in the region, up until his recent retirement in October 2013. But his involvement in murder inquiries stretches back almost two decades and to infamous cases such as that of 13-year-old schoolgirl Candice Williams, who was raped and strangled in 1978.
Det. Insp. Rogers, who at the time only a detective constable, was the man who arrested and interviewed her killer, Patrick Hassett, in 1991.Hassett was always a suspect but was only charged after developments in DNA profiling in the late eighties gave police new evidence which ultimately led to his conviction.
The 49-year-old says he’s been affected in many ways by the deaths he’s investigated but the overriding feeling has been one of satisfaction when offenders have been brought to justice. “In those first few hours following a murder, you meet the family and you have to look them in the eye and promise you’ll do everything you possibly can to get the justice they deserve,” he said.
“You know you can never bring that person back but what you can do is your best for the family in catching the killer or killers and putting them behind bars.That’s a lot of pressure, but you have to deal with it for what it is − if you took all of these murders home with you, you wouldn’t be able to do the job effectively.”
Det. Insp. Rogers’ first major case on the dedicated murder team was when he was sent to South Africa in 2002 to help extradite two hit men who were later convicted of killing local man Barry Trigwell in 1995.
Not long after he returned from the country, Det. Insp. Rogers’ second major inquiry unfolded when teenagers Charlene Ellis and Letisha Shakespeare were shot dead in central Birmingham.
The friends had been at a New Year party in Aston on 2nd January 2003 when they were caught up in a drive- by shooting in the early hours of the morning. Four men were convicted of their murders.
Other high profile killings investigated by the detective include that of six-year-old Alisha Begum, who died in an arson attack in Perry Barr in 2006; 19-year-old Stephon Davidson who was shot dead on Birmingham’s Ladywood Middleway in 2008; and pensioners Giuseppe and Caterina Massaro, who were brutally attacked and killed by Ireneusz Bartnowski at their home in Wolverhampton in 2011.
But of all the murders he’s been involved with, it was the stabbing of schoolgirl Christina Edkins last year, which particularly stands out for Det. Insp. Rogers.
“Everyone knows someone like Christina,” he said. “And I think for that reason, there wasn’t anyone who wasn’t touched by what happened to her.
“You deal with a lot of murders where the offenders are known to their victims but this was completely different. Another thing you don’t tend to ever see is the actual murder being committed, but this was all on CCTV which was very difficult.
“People often ask me about what the pressure must be like but in my opinion the real stress is on the families who overnight have their lives turned upside down and are thrust into the media spotlight.
“As far as my role is concerned, it’s all about teamwork − 100 per cent. If anyone stands up and says they’ve solved a murder, they’re lying, because every officer, every witness, every pathologist − they all have a part to play in bringing people to justice.”
After 30 years as a police officer, Buck has now retired from the force and although he still works in the private sector, he’s enjoying spending more time with his wife, six-year-old son and two-year-old daughter − something he doesn’t take for granted.
“In all of the cases I’ve investigated there was a normal person going about their daily business − someone’s daughter, son, brother, sister, mum or dad. You should never forget life is precious,” he said. “It could be taken from you at any moment.”
Detective Inspector Rogers was presented with a Chief Constable’s Award at a ceremony at Tally Ho! in Edgbaston earlier this week.